Heavy Exposure to Air Pollution During Pregnancy May Raise Air Pollution Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"Cairo Air Pollution with less smog - Pyramids1" by Nina Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0Lief Pagalan, MSc

Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Research Trainee, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility
Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Pregnant women more heavily exposed to air pollution had higher chances of having children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The causes of ASD are not fully understood, but this study adds to the growing evidence that environmental risk factors have a role to play. Our study found an association between autism spectrum disorder in the children of women more heavily exposed to air pollution. We observed these results using well-defined cases of ASD and in Vancouver, Canada, which typically has lower air pollution. These findings are consistent with studies done in the U.S., Israel, and Taiwan, which have also found an increased risk of ASD from exposure to air pollution.  Continue reading

Medications Commonly Used During Pregnancy Not Associated With Higher Autism Rates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Magdalena Janecka PhD Department of Psychiatry Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Dr. Janecka

Magdalena Janecka PhD
Department of Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Our paper explored the association between maternal use of medication during pregnancy and the rates of autism in a large cohort from Israel. This followed on from a number of earlier studies reporting that the use of certain medications – for example antidepressants – during pregnancy is associated with higher rates of autism in children. However, rather than test the effects of any particular drug, or a set of drugs aggregated based on maternal condition, our large dataset allowed us to group all medications prescribed to pregnant women based on their drug target, and in the subsequent analyses focus on over 50 groups that included drugs with neurotransmitter-relevant targets – for example agonists and antagonists of their receptors.

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Folate Metabolites Linked To Increased Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Juergen Hahn PhD, Professor and Department Head Department of Biomedical Engineerin Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Prof., Hahn

Juergen Hahn PhD, Professor and
Department Head Department of Biomedical Engineerin
Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Recent estimates indicate that if a mother has previously had a child with autism spectrum disorder, the risk of having a second child with ASD is ~18.7% whereas the risk of ASD in the general population is ~1.7%.

This work investigated if there is a difference in metabolites of the folate one carbon metabolism and the transulfuration pathway between the mothers that have had a child with ASD and those that have not. Furthermore, we investigated if there is a difference among the mothers who have had a child with autism spectrum disorder based upon if the child that they were pregnant with will have an ASD diagnosis by age 3. This part required follow up with the mothers three years later.

The main findings are that there are statistically significant differences in the metabolites between the mothers who have previously had a child with autism spectrum disorder, who have an 18.7% probability of having another child with ASD, and those who have not, who have an 1.7% probability of having a child with autism spectrum disorder.

However, we did not find differences among the mothers based upon if the child will be diagnosed with ASD at age 3.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Based upon the measurements it is not possible to determine during a pregnancy if a child will be diagnosed with ASD by age 3. However, differences in the folate-dependent transmethylation and transsulfuration metabolites are indicative of the risk level (High Risk of 18.7% vs. Low Risk of 1.7%) of the mother for having a child with autism spectrum disorder.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: This study has not been replicated and we also had to make a number of assumptions which are listed in the paper. These points should be looked at in future research. My recommendation would be to replicate the comparison between mothers who have had a child with .autism spectrum disorder and those who have not and focus on recruiting an approximately equal number of mothers for each group and try to match the two groups by age and ethnicity.

Citation:

Maternal metabolic profile predicts high or low risk of an autism pregnancy outcome

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Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Volume 56, December 2018, Pages 72-82

Sep 22, 2018 @ 3:18 pm

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Biochemical Test Promises To Aid in Diagnosis of ASD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Juergen Hahn Professor and Department Head Department of Biomedical Engineering Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Prof. Hahn

Juergen Hahn,  Professor and Department Head
Department of Biomedical Engineering Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a large group of early‐onset developmental disorders that are collectively characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication as well as the expression of restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests. ASD is currently estimated to affect 1 in 59 children in the US. Despite this high prevalence, relatively little is know about the pathophysiology of ASD. The result of this is that no lab test exists for ASD and the diagnosis is based upon observations of the child. The average age of diagnosis is 4 years of age, but it is generally acknowledged that diagnosis at 2 years of age is possible and desirable. Continue reading

Driving Skills May Be Harder to Master with ASD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Driving” by Martin Alvarez Espinar is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kristina Elise Patrick, Ph.D

Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, OH 43205

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Many families of young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are concerned that they may have difficulty acquiring driver’s licenses and driving safely because of symptoms of ASD. However, the ability to drive opens the door to a variety of social, occupational, and educational experiences. We aimed to assess differences in simulated driving behaviors of young adults with ASD and those with typical development and to evaluate whether differences depended on level of driving experience and complexity of the driving task.

On average, young adults with ASD had more difficulty regulating their speed and position within their lane compared with typically developing individuals even on a very basic rural route. After completing the basic route, drivers were required to engage in more complex tasks such as changing the radio or engaging in conversation while driving, driving through a construction zone, and following behind a truck. On complex driving tasks, drivers with ASD who had acquired licensure drove similarly to typically developing drivers who had acquired licensure. However, novice drivers with ASD had more difficulty than typically developing drivers regulating their speed and position within the lane.

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Food Allergies More Common in Children With ASD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Wei Bao, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Epidemiology College of Public Health University of Iowa

Dr. Wei Bao

Wei Bao, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology
College of Public Health
University of Iowa

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies indicated a possible link between immunologic dysfunction and autism. The current study, based on nationally representative large-scale surveys, showed that food allergy, respiratory allergy, and skin allergy, all relevant to immunological dysfunction, were associated with autism spectrum disorder among US children.

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Hypertension Disorders in Pregnancy Associated With Increase in ASD and ADHD in Offspring

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Blood Pressure” by Bernard Goldbach is licensed under CC BY 2.0Ali Khashan, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology
School of Public Health & INFANT Centre
University College Cork
Cork, Ireland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There is some evidence to suggest an increased likelihood of neurodevelopmental disorders in relation to hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, however consensus is lacking. Considering hypertensive disorders in pregnancy are among the most common prenatal complication, we decided to synthesise the published literature on this topic by conducting a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis.

Our main findings suggest that hypertensive disorders in pregnancy are associated with about 30% increase in the likelihood of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and ADHD in the offspring, compared to offspring not exposed to hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. Continue reading

Minerals in Baby Teeth Predictive of Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“baby teeth” by Thomas Ricker is licensed under CC BY 2.0Christine Austin PhD
Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY 10029

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies have shown that some metals (nutrients and toxicants) are absorbed and metabolized differently in children with autism spectrum disorder compared to neuro-typical children. However, it is not known when this dysregulation occurs and it is incredibly difficult to study prenatal metal metabolism. Teeth, which begin forming prenatally, grow by adding a new layer every day, much like the yearly growth rings in trees. Each layer formed captures many of the chemicals circulating in the body at the time.

We have developed a method to measure metals in these layers to build a timeline of metal exposure during the prenatal and early childhood period. We found that the cycles of copper and zinc metabolism were disrupted in children with ASD and used this feature to develop a method to predict the emergence of autism spectrum disorder with 90% accuracy.

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Balovaptan Has Potential to Improve Social Interaction and Communication in Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Kevin Sanders, MD Principle Medical Director-Product Development Neuroscience Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics Vanderbilt University

Dr. Sanders

Dr Kevin Sanders, MD
Principle Medical Director-Product Development Neuroscience
Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics
Vanderbilt University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this announcement? 

Response: The FDA has granted Roche Breakthrough Therapy Designation for its investigational oral medicine balovaptan (previously known as RG7314), a vasopressin 1a (V1a) receptor antagonist for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for balovaptan is primarily based on efficacy findings in the VANILLA (Vasopressin ANtagonist to Improve sociaL communication in Autism) study, a Phase II trial of balovaptan in adults with ASD. Trial results were first presented at the International Congress for Autism Research (IMFAR) in May 2017. Treatment effects were observed on the Vineland-II (secondary endpoint) and also demonstrated that balovaptan was safe and well tolerated by the subjects in the study. The Vineland-II is a scale that measures socialization, communication and daily living skills. This data was presented to the FDA and is part of the basis of the Breakthrough Designation.  Continue reading

Subtle Motor Biomarker May Be Essential Feature of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Indiana University graduate student Di Wu poses for a portrait in Swain Hall on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017.

Di Wu credit: James Brosher

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Di Wu, Msc
PhD candidate at Indiana University
Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Physics
Indiana University Bloomington
Linked-in: www.linkedin.com/in/di-wu-3a197373 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Current clinical diagnosis and evaluations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). has remained subjective in nature. There is a need to have objective assessments for the disorder. We discovered in this study an important motion feature that was unknown before. This feature provides a clear screening of ASD. It gave a remarkable quantitative connection between the way children with ASD move and their psychiatric scores, like the IQ score and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale. This connection we captured suggests that the motor feature may be an essential core feature characterizing ASD deficits, as well as neurodevelopment in general.

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Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders Lower in Black and Hispanic Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Maureen Durkin, PhD, DrPH Professor and Interim Chair Department of Population Health Sciences University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Madison, WI

Prof. Durkin

Maureen Durkin, PhD, DrPH
Professor and Interim Chair
Department of Population Health Sciences
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Madison, WI 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Previous studies of the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children in the U.S. have found two consistent patterns.  One is a higher prevalence among white non-Hispanic children than among black non-Hispanic or Hispanic children.  The other is a positive socioeconomic gradient, meaning that ASD prevalence in the U.S. is found to increase with increasing income and other indicators of socioeconomic status.

One of the findings of this new study is that the racial and ethnic differences in autism spectrum disorder prevalence are not explained by socioeconomic factors, because even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, ASD prevalence was found to be significantly lower in black and Hispanic children than in white non-Hispanic children.  Another finding is that the gap in ASD prevalence between children of high and low socioeconomic status did not change over time between 2002 and 2010, though the overall prevalence of ASD more than doubled during this period.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder Found To Be Highly Heritable

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Sven Sandin, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY 10029

D. Sandin

Sven Sandin, PhD Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY 10029 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In 2014, we estimated the heritability of autism to be approximately 50%. Motivating us then was the lack of studies in autism heritability using population based and the findings from a twin-study in California finding the heritability to be substantially lower than the 80-90% estimated in previous studies. Since then continued efforts working with the questions on heritability and environmental factors for autism we found differences between different methods and different samples. When we went back to our previous data we found the heritability of autism to be higher than previously estimated. We found that our previous result was due to a methodological artifact where the adjustment for differences in follow-up used in that manuscript underestimated the heritability. Using methods used in other heritability studies the heritability is now estimated to 84%. Importantly, as previously concluded, there is no support for any ‘shared environmental factors’ in the etiology of autism, e.g. environmental factors shared between two siblings.

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Folic Acid May Reduce Risk of Autism Associated With Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D.  Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences UC Davis California

Dr. Schmidt

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor, Public Health Sciences
UC Davis California

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Maternal folic acid taken near conception has been linked to reduced risk for autism in the child in previous studies.

Separate studies show that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with increased risk for autism.

Animal studies demonstrate that folic acid and other B-vitamins can attenuate effects of certain environmental contaminants, including pesticides.

This case-control study examined combined maternal folic acid and pesticide exposures in relation to autism in the child.

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Stress May Aggravate GI Symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorder

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

David Q. Beversdor MD Center for Translational Neuroscience University Hospital University of Missouri Health System Columbia, MO 65212

Dr. David Beversdor

David Q. Beversdor MD
Center for Translational Neuroscience
University Hospital
University of Missouri Health System
Columbia, MO 65212

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Altered stress reactivity, alterations in cytokines and a high incidence of gastrointestinal disturbances have all been observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We wished to examine the interactions between these factors.

What we found was that patients with greater stress reactivity, as indicated by cortisol response in the testing environment, had greater symptomatology involving the lower gastrointestinal tract, which was predominated by constipation.

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