Sunday, February 19, 2017

An Experimental New Test Could Hold the Secret to Identifying Autism in Infants as Young as One

Researchers have experienced some positive results with a new test which uses a brain scan and could help identify babies under 1 with autism before it develops.
The scan utilizes standard brain screening and focuses on those young babies who are at a higher risk of developing autism because a sibling has it. The new breakthrough is helping to fill in a serious gap in screening and identifying autism in children. The biggest problem with identifying children with autism is that they don’t show any signs of the disorder until they are almost two years old.
Researchers have used the scan to look at the surface area and thickness of different parts of a child’s cerebral cortex as well as the shifting size. They measure against normal sizes at both the six and twelve-month marks of a child’s development.
"These findings suggest a cascade of brain changes across the first two years of life that result in the emergence of autism at the end of the second year," said senior study author Dr. Joseph Piven. Dr. Piven is the director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
The team studied their new screening test on approximately 150 young children, 100 of which were already identified as being at high risk of developing autism, because of their family history. Dr. Piven stated that children who have older siblings with autism are up to five times more at risk of developing autism themselves.
Once researchers had conducted the scans at the six and twelve-month marks, the results were then inputted into a computer program. The computer used two observations to determine its prediction.
First – Infants who develop autism by age two appear to undergo relatively high brain-surface growth between ages six months and one year.
Second – High brain surface area growth in the first year of life is linked to a higher overall brain size in the second year of life.
The results were that the computer program was successfully able to accurately predict autism in eight out of ten of those babies who developed autism by age two. The approach was nearly perfect in predicting which high-risk babies would not develop autism by age two. Dr. Piven was cautious to advise that the tests were still in the experimental stage.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Thinking Behind Why Autism Could Be More Common in Males

A new study is coming up with some interesting ideas behind why autism could be more prevalent in young men than young women.
Many women with autism appear more likely to have a brain anatomy that's normally seen in males the study has found. Recent studies have found that it could cause structural differences in the male’s brain which make autism more common in young men. The study found that young women were up to three times more likely to be on the autism spectrum if their brain anatomy resembled that which is normally found in young men.
Specifically, these females had much thicker than normal cortical areas, a trait generally seen in male brains,” said Dr. Matthew Lorber, who is the acting director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
This study is certainly not conclusive, but it does propose a reason why autism is found so much more frequently in males,” said Lorber, who wasn’t directly involved with the study.
From results collected from the study, it could mean that the way the male brain is structured is directly linked to the development of autism. The study couldn’t, however, prove that these anatomical differences were directly linked to the cause of autism. The information used for the study found stated that autism is between two and five times more common in men than women. Other studies conducted into autism show that men are at a much higher risk of developing autism than women.
To test their theory, a team led by Christine Ecker, of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, conducted brain scans of 98 right-handed adults with autism. The researchers also scanned the brains of 98 neurologically healthy people for comparison purposes.
The scans focused on the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the gray outer layer of neural tissue in the brain. This thickness typically varies between men and women, and may also be altered in people with autism, the researchers explained.
They found that men with autism had similar brain anatomy to those that didn’t have autism. However, the brain anatomy of women with autism more often resembled the brain anatomy of men.
Mathew Pletcher, vice president and head of genomic discovery at Autism Speaks, stated, “This work suggests that changes in specific features of the brain may be associated with autism in some females.  He also stated “these findings give more credibility that biology of the brain plays a major role in the development of autism spectrum disorder. It also suggests that when trying to diagnose autism spectrum disorder, it might make sense to examine the cortical regions in the brain.
The study hasn’t found any new insights on how to directly treat autism. However, understanding how the brain anatomy relates to the disorder could help scientists in the future working on any treatments.
The new study was published online Feb. 8 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

ASU researchers use fecal transplants to help gastrointestinal problems with autism patients

It's the first study of its kind in the world.
Researchers at Arizona State University are using fecal transplants to treat those with autism.

Gastrointestinal problems are common in people with autism, effecting nearly one third of them.

"It's very hard to treat and it's a huge problem for them if you have a 16 year old still in diapers because they can't control their bowel movements. It really effects their quality of life," said Dr. James Adams, Director of ASU Autism Research Program.

So scientists, like Adams, began focusing on younger autism patients.

Each week, researchers took fecal samples from healthy patients and then implanted those purified samples into those with autism.

"So what we found in kids with autism is that they're missing about 200 to 300 species of gut bacteria that play a lot of important roles like producing vitamins and help fight off harmful bacteria," said Dr. Adams.

The results from this new research are astounding.

Not only did they see an 80 percent improvement in gastrointestinal discomfort, but nearly 25 percent of autism patients saw an improvement in certain autism behaviors, including social and sleep habits.

I found this on Fox News in Phoenix

Friday, January 27, 2017

Could a tuberculosis drug help treat autism?

I found this article on Medical News Today and thought it was interesting.

An antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis has the potential to alleviate the social impairments associated with autism spectrum disorder, new research suggests.

The study reveals that the drug d-cycloserine boosted the function of an autism-related gene called PCDH10 and improved social impairments in mice.

Senior study author Prof. Edward Brodkin, of the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder characterized by problems with social skills, communication, and behavior.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 1 in 68 children in the United States have ASD, and the condition is around 4.5 times more common among boys than girls.

While the exact causes of autism are unclear, studies have suggested that genetics may play a role. One gene that has been associated with the condition is PCDH10. 

According to Prof. Brodkin and colleagues, PCDH10 is expressed in the amygdala - a brain region that has been linked to social and behavioral impairments in people with autism. However, precisely how this gene affects neuronal activity in the amygdala to influence social behavior remains unknown.

PCDH10 reduces NMDA glutamate receptor subunit levels

For their study, the researchers set out to gain a better understanding of the role of PCDH10 in autism-related social deficits.

First, the team analyzed the neurons in the amygdala of mice that were genetically engineered to lack one copy of the PCDH10 gene, reducing its function.

The researchers found that these neurons showed a reduction in NMDA glutamate receptor subunit levels, which is an indicator of disrupted connectivity in neural circuits.

Furthermore, the rodents displayed social deficits, further confirming the role of PCDH10 in social behavior.

Interestingly, the social behavior of male mice was more affected by reduced PCDH10 function than that of female mice, which correlates with the higher incidence of ASD in male humans.
Social deficits in mice improved with d-cycloserine

Next, the researchers treated the mice with d-cycloserine (brand name Seromycin), an antibiotic prescribed for the treatment of tuberculosis and urinary tract infections.

The team explains that d-cycloserine is known to boost NMDA glutamate receptor function, and previous studies have suggested that the drug may be effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Following treatment with d-cycloserine, the researchers identified an improvement in social impairments among the rodents.

Not only does this study shed light on the mechanisms by which PCDH10 contributes to social deficits in ASD, but it also points to a potential treatment for such impairments.

However, Prof. Brodkin notes that much more research is required in both animals and humans before d-cycloserine can be recommended as a safe and effective treatment for ASD.