July 15 2013 Week In Review: Latest Research into Autism

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

CC BY-SA by Egan Snow

Extra Cerebrospinal fluid potential predictor for autism, study reveals.

Nature published a new study that recorded infantile brain size over about 2 years. The study revealed that children who went on to being diagnosed with an ASD had extra cerebrospinal fluid and larger head sizes in infancy. The study conducted at the UC Davis MIND Institute raises hopes of a potential biomarker in detecting neurodevelopmental disorders like autism that have no diagnostic test.

The study published online on the 9th July was conducted by Dr. David Amaral, a well-known psychiatrist from University of California and Research director at the MIND Institute along with Andrew Adesman, M.D., Chief of Developmental & behavioural paediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Centre, N.Y.  The duo utilised MRI scans of 55 babies between 6 and 36 month age. 33 of these infants had one older sibling diagnosed with autism. 22 infants didn’t have any family history of autism or ASD. The fluid that acts as a shock-absorber and lubricant for the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid, extends into the spinal canal too. The researchers studied the quantity of this fluid that was present between the brain and the external bony skull. 8 out of the 10 children who were later diagnosed to have ASD at 24-36 months had 20-33% higher volumes of this extra-axial fluid, the study observed. Also, 24% of high-risk and 13.5% of the low-risk infants were diagnosed with other developmental disorders.

Autism-related antibodies found in mothers of autistic children

Another study conducted by the prestigious UC Davis MIND Institute has found that mothers giving birth to an autistic child were 21 times more likely than non-autistic children’s mothers to have antibodies that interact with brain proteins of the fetus. The autism produced by these antibodies has been termed MAR- autism i.e. Maternal Autoantibody Related- autism.

Almost 23% mothers of autistic kids had various combinations of these auto-antibodies against target antigens compared to less than a percent of mothers of normally developing children. The study raises the possibility of having a blood test that can diagnose whether the mother will deliver an autistic child. The study was published in Nature Journal on 9th July by Judy Van de Water and her team.

Fecal transplants for autism, future or science fiction?

‘Repoopulate’ might be the buzz word in the next ten years if faecal transplants deliver everything they promise to be. This robotic gut can reproduce synthetic poop containing bacteria chosen carefully by the gastroenterologist. By means of a simple out-patient department procedure called colonoscopy, the synthetic stool will be transplanted into the patient’s gut and the rest is mystery, not history.

A growing body of evidence is suggesting that faecal transplants, by realigning the fauna of the gut, might have the potential to treat not just colonic disorders but also asthma, diabetes and even autism. Julian Davies, a famous microbiologist from University of British Columbia stated that our gut fauna are as unique as our fingerprints and judging by the role of these microbes in our body, it is not too wrong to say that the macrocosm around us might finally be the key to unlocking problems of the microcosm within us.