When a child has autism, siblings are also at risk for the disorder. New research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that the genetic reach of the disorder often extends to half siblings as well. On the surface, the finding may not be surprising - half siblings share about 25 percent of their genes. But the discovery is giving scientists new clues to how autism is inherited. The study is published online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. According to principal investigator John N. Constantino, MD, the new research adds to recent evidence that even though autism is far more common in males, females still can inherit and pass along genetic risk for autism. "We found that autism risk for half siblings is about half of what it is for full siblings, " he says.
A major study of the relationships between maternal metabolic conditions and the risk that a child will be born with a neurodevelopmental disorder has found strong links between maternal diabetes and obesity and the likelihood of having a child with autism or another developmental disability. Conducted by researchers affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute, the study found that mothers who were obese were 1-2/3 times more likely to have a child with autism as normal-weight mothers without diabetes or hypertension, and were more than twice as likely to have a child with another developmental disorder. Mothers with diabetes were found to have nearly 2-1/3 times the chance of having a child with developmental delays as healthy mothers. However, the proportion of mothers with diabetes who had a child with autism was higher than in healthy mothers but did not reach statistical significance.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have significantly reduced from hours to minutes the time it takes to accurately detect autism in young children. The process of diagnosing autism is complex, subjective, and often limited to only a segment of the population in need. With the recent rise in incidence to 1 in 88 children, the need for accurate and widely deployable methods for screening and diagnosis is substantial. Dennis Wall, associate professor of pathology and director of computational biology initiative at the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, has been working to address this problem and has discovered a highly accurate strategy that could significantly reduce the complexity and time of the diagnostic process. Wall has been developing algorithms and associated deployment mechanisms to detect autism rapidly and with high accuracy.
A new study in Clinical Epigenetics, suggests that the epidemic of autism amongst children in the U.S. may be associated with the typical American diet. The study by Renee Dufault and his team explores how mineral deficiencies, affected by dietary factors, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), could have a potential impact on how the human body frees itself of common toxic chemicals, for instance, pesticides and mercury. The release comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report that estimates a 78% increase in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) between 2002 and 2008 amongst eight year olds. At present, 1 in 88 children has ASD, with the rate being almost five times higher in boys than girls. Dr. David Wallinga, a physician at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and co-author of the study, said: "To better address the explosion of autism, it's critical we consider how unhealthy diets interfere with the body's ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, and ultimately our risk for developing long-term health problems like autism.
Maternal metabolic conditions, including obesity and/or diabetes, are linked to a higher chance of giving birth to children with a neurodevelopmental disorder, including autism, researchers from the University of California, Davis, California, and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee reported in the journal Pediatrics. The authors added that as obesity rates have been rising steadily, and appear to be continuing to grow, their findings raise "serious public health concerns." As background information, the researchers explain that maternal diabetes had been found, in earlier studies, to be linked to a higher risk of general development impairments in offspring. However, none of them had focused on whether autism rates might be influenced by obesity or diabetes during pregnancy.