Posts Tagged ‘ autism research ’

Is There a Link Between Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy and Autism?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Iron Deficiency in Pregnant Women Linked With Autism in Children

Children have a five times higher risk of developing autism if their mother had an iron deficiency, combined with an older age and other risk factors during her pregnancy, new research from the UC Davis MIND Institute shows.

“Iron is crucial to early brain development,” Rebecca J. Schmidt, an assistant professor at UC Davis and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute said in a statement.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that this risk was especially associated with women who had a low iron intake and had a metabolic condition like obesity hypertension or diabetes, or were 35 years old or older.

Forty to 50 percent of pregnant women have an iron deficiency, Schmidt said in the statement. Even so, it is linked to crucial brain development in three specific pathways that have been shown to be associated with autism, the study explains.

Each mother in the study had her daily iron intake via vitamins, supplements, and fortified breakfast cereals examined, “three months prior to through the end of the women’s pregnancies and breastfeeding,” the news release explained.

This is the first study of its kind and Schmidt stressed the importance of taking this information with a grain of salt as it needs to be replicated again in larger scale groups.

“In the meantime the takeaway message for women is do what your doctor recommends,” she said in the statement. ”Take vitamins throughout pregnancy, and take the recommended daily dosage. If there are side effects, talk to your doctor about how to address them.”

Try some of our tips to feed your baby’s brain during pregnancy.

Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests

Photo of pregnant woman with vitamins courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Could Autism Symptoms in Babies Be Reversed? A Small Study Offers Hope

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Small Study Examines Early Treatment For Babies Identified With AutismFollowing the recent news that scientists found some important neurological differences in the brains of children with autism, comes more hopeful news.

As part of a very small research study, seven babies (ages 6 to 9 months) who were identified as having early signs of autism were offered therapy—and the findings were shocking: By age 3, five of the seven children didn’t show any symptoms of autism, and a sixth showed only mild ones, USA Today reports.

The research was run by the University of California Davis’ MIND Institute and involved a modified type of treatment that is already offered to older children diagnosed with autism that includes intensive sessions with therapists and family members designed to teach parents how to pick up on their children’s subtle social cues during daily activities.

“It doesn’t prove that these children recovered from autism,” Rogers told USA Today, because they were not technically old enough to be diagnosed with autism. But “it’s a promise of a potential treatment for young children who have these symptoms.”

Study co-author Sally Rogers and her colleagues are now working to secure funding to run a larger study.

If your child has been diagnosed with autism, learn more about the different treatment and therapy options that are available to  you and your family.

A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag
A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag
A Test for Autism Risk: Head Lag

Photo of baby courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

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New Study Reveals Kids With Autism Have Too Many Synapses

Monday, August 25th, 2014

New Autism Research Links Synapse Pruning to Brain DevelopmentNew insight was gained recently into the brains of children with and without autism, according to a study published in the journal Neuron.

Although there are many neurological variations, one major difference between the brains is that the number of synapses (the channels through which neurons send messages) were found to be more than 50 percent higher in children with autism, Reuters reported.

Researchers learned that children whose brains develop normally begin to prune synapses as they age, but children with autism failed to do that effectively. It’s important to note that their brains weren’t producing more synapses; just having trouble paring them down. The overabundance of synapses correlates with the understanding that children with autism deal with sensory overload, as the synapses can stimulate the brain with too much light and sound.

The same study also found that the drug rapamycin had positive effects on lab mice with a specific, rare genetic disease associated with autism. After being given the drug, the mice experienced an improved synapse pruning process, and their autistic-like social behaviors (avoiding interactions) were reversed. “We were able to treat mice after the disease had appeared,” neurobiologist David Sulzer of Columbia University Medical Center, who led the study, told Reuters. Although the drug is currently too dangerous to test on humans, it offers a possibility that a treatment for autism is in reach, “though there is a lot of work to be done,” Dr. Sulzer said.

The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 68 children has some form of autism, which has no treatment plan. If successful, the drug has the potential to be groundbreaking. The nonprofit, Autism Speaks, is already funding multiple studies on rapamycin.

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

If your child has been diagnosed with autism, download these free family support tool kits from Autism Speaks.

Photo of chalk drawing courtesy of Shutterstock.

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1 in 68 Children Has Autism, CDC Reports

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:

Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”

The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.

The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.

More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.

“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.

The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.

Help your child track his progress in school

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

Image via Shutterstock.  

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Study: Siblings of Children with Autism Share Risk of the Disorder

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Children who have a big brother or big sister with an autism spectrum disorder face an increased risk of developing such a disorder themselves, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The study, of more than 1.5 million children in Denmark, found that sibs of kids diagnosed with autism had an almost seven-fold increased risk of developing autism as well.

This research comes on the heels of a recent study that found that women who undergo labor induction may be more likely to give birth to children with autism spectrum disorders.

Here’s more on the sibling study from TIME.com:

For parents, the findings raise difficult questions about how proactive they should be in screening for the disease among their younger children if older siblings are affected. Alycia Halladay, senior director, environmental and clinical sciences for Autism Speaks, says parents who have already had a child diagnosed on the spectrum should alert their doctor to the family history. During check-ups, when a doctor asks about inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis, they now typically include autism on the check-list.

Mothers of autistic children can also take steps during pregnancy to lower the risk of autism in their next offspring, such as taking prenatal folic acid and avoiding overexposure to toxins. That attention could even extend to the infants’ first few years, since studies suggest that some intensive behavior therapies can help to mitigate the symptoms of autism. “We know that early intervention can make a real lifetime of difference. So be very vigilant during that child’s life, all the way from birth to the well baby check-ups, six months, 12 months, and 18 months,” says Halladay. “Make sure you are watching for the signs and symptoms of autism. Consult your pediatrician, and if you do notice the signs and symptoms of autism you can receive help free of charge from a state-based early intervention agency.”

Researchers are also developing tests that can detect the genetic risk factors associated with the disorder, and more of these biomarkers may become available as additional gene-based contributors emerge. Scientists from University of Utah and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, recently identified 24 new gene variants associated with autism spectrum disorders in January.

Image: Toddler and baby, via Shutterstock

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