Blood from individuals with autism could help researchers identify biomarkers to diagnose the disorder and learn more about related symptoms, such as gastrointestinal complaints, says molecular biologist Valerie Hu.
A new study examining trends in autism research over the past 40 years found that the largest areas of growth have been in immune function, oxidative stress, toxin exposure, genetics and neuroimaging, while research on theory of mind and neuropathology has slowed.
Research on the immune system’s link to autism and other psychiatric disorders is rich and varied — from massive epidemiological studies of twins and pregnant women, to the screening of immune molecules in amniotic fluid and postmortem studies of brain inflammation. In his new book, Paul Patterson lays out this complicated work clearly and concisely, with little editorializing.
SP1, a protein that regulates the expression of several autism candidate genes, could increase risk of the disorder by simultaneously altering the expression of a number of the genes, according to a study published 24 October in Biological Psychiatry.
The molecular soldiers of the immune system may contribute to many cases of autism, according to a diverse array of studies published in the past few months.
In families that have more than one child with autism, the middle children, particularly those born second, have a higher risk of developing autism than other children in the family, according to a study published 19 October in PLoS One. In families that have only one child with autism, however, risk of the disorder rises with each additional birth, the study found.
Probiotic bacteria alleviate stress in healthy mice and modify the expression of receptors for a chemical messenger that inhibits signaling in the brain.
BTBR mice, which are less social than the typical B6 mice, have an elevated immune response in their brains and blood compared with those mice, according to a study published 20 July in PLoS ONE. Hybrids of BTBR and B6 mice have intermediate levels of immune molecules.
Including more females in autism research studies will aid the search for genetic and environmental susceptibility factors for the disorder, says genetic psychiatrist Lauren Weiss.