No Link Found Between Autism and Maternal Fish Ingested During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Fish” by Dhruvaraj S is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Caroline M Taylor
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow
Centre for Child and Adolescent Health
Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol
Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol

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

Response: Mercury is a toxic metal that is widespread in the environment. In pregnancy, mercury in the mother’ bloodstream is transferred through the placenta to the fetus, where is can affect development of the nervous system. Mercury from vaccines has been the focus of attention particularly in regard to a link with autism in children. However, the amount of mercury used in the vaccines is small in comparison with mercury from the diet and atmospheric pollution, and in the EU at least, childhood vaccines no longer contain this preservative. The fear that mercury is linked to autism has persisted, despite increasing evidence that this is not the case.

The aim of our study was to look at mercury from the diet rather than vaccines – specifically from fish – in pregnant women. We measured the women’s mercury levels in their blood and asked them about how much fish they ate. We then followed up their children for 9 years and recorded how many of them had autism diagnosed within that time. We also measured how many of them had autist traits by measuring their social and communication difficulties.  The data were part of the Children of the 90s study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – ALSPAC), which is based in Bristol, UK.

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Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells May Improve Symptoms in Children with Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael G. Chez, M.D. Director of Pediatric Neurology Sutter Memorial Hospital Director of the Pediatric Epilepsy and Autism Programs Sutter Neuroscience Group 

Dr. Michael Chez

Michael G. Chez, M.D.
Director of Pediatric Neurology Sutter Memorial Hospital
Director of the Pediatric Epilepsy and Autism Programs
Sutter Neuroscience Group 

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

Response: The study looked at possible use of autologous cord blood as a source of stem cells in patients with autism. The patients had to have fairly good genetic screening per protocol and had confirmation of autism to participate.

The use of cord blood was a pilot cross over double blind study with hypothesis that a post natal factor or immune dysregulation may add to the autism clinical phenotype.

Cord blood ( the baby’s own from birth) is a safe source of mixed stem cell types and should be safe from rejection or autoimmune reaction in theory.

Infusion /placebo or placebo/infusion was randomized and observed and tested every 3 months with switch to other wing of treatment at 0 and 6 months. Total observation was over 1 year.

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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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Brain Signals Reflect Social Anxiety and Performance Fears in ASD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tamara Rosen

Tamara Rosen

Tamara Rosen
Graduate student in Clinical Psychology
Stony Brook University

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

Response: Approximately 40 percent of youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are diagnosed with a co-occurring anxiety disorder.  Social anxiety is a common presenting problem for these youth.

Youth with ASD and increased social anxiety have heightened threat sensitivity, particularly in relation to performance fears, as measured by a brain signal response called the error-related negativity (ERN), which measures response to errors. The threat sensitivity-performance fears association remained even after controlling for anxiety symptoms other than social fearfulness.

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Lack of Folic Acid Supplements During Pregnancy Linked With Increased Autism Risk in Children Exposed to Seizure Drugs In Utero

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Marte Bjørk, MD PhD Department of Clinical Medicine University of Bergen, Department of Neurology Haukeland University Hospital Bergen, Norway

Dr. Marte Bjørk

Dr. Marte Bjørk, MD PhD
Department of Clinical Medicine
University of Bergen,
Department of Neurology
Haukeland University Hospital
Bergen, Norway

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

Response: In utero antiepileptic drug exposure are associated with neurodevelopmental problems in the child. We looked into if maternal folate during pregnancy could reduce the risk of autistic traits in children of women in need of antiepileptic drugs in pregnancy. The rationale for the hypothesis that folate could be beneficial, was that many antiepileptic drugs interact with folate metabolism. Folic acid supplement use is also associated with slightly reduced risk of autism in children of women from the general population.

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Mechanism Identified Linking ASD and Intellectual Disability, Opening Door To Development of Treatment Options

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Woo-Yang Kim, Ph.D Associate Professor Department of Developmental Neuroscience  Munroe-Meyer Institute University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha, NE 68198-5960

Dr-Woo-Yang Kim

Woo-Yang Kim, Ph.D
Associate Professor
Department of Developmental Neuroscience
Munroe-Meyer Institute
University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-5960

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

Response:  Autism impairs the ability of individuals to communicate and interact with others. About 75 percent of individuals with autism also have intellectual disability, which is characterized by significant limitations in cognitive functions and adaptive behaviors. While autism and intellectual disability are currently defined using behavioral criteria, little is known about the neuropathogenesis of these conditions.

Recent genetic studies have reported that haploinsufficiency of ARID1B causes autism and intellectual disability. However, the neurobiological function of ARID1B during brain development is unknown.

Our study investigated the neurobiological role of the gene in brain development. Using genetically-modified mice, we found that Arid1b haploinsufficiency leads to an excitation-inhibition imbalance by reducing the number of GABAergic interneurons in the cerebral cortex. Furthermore, we showed that treatment with a GABAA-receptor positive allosteric modulator rescues ASD-like behavior and cognitive dysfunction in Arid1b-haploinsufficient mice, suggesting an association between lower numbers of GABAergic interneurons and behavioral outcomes.

Our findings suggest a pathogenic mechanism for Autism Spectrum Disorder and intellectual disability.

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Multivitamins in Pregnancy May Be Associated With Lower Autism Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Elizabeth DeVilbiss, PhD MPH
Dornsife School of Public Health
Drexel University

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

Response: Unfortunately, not much is known about how diet during pregnancy affects autism risk.  There have been studies in recent years about varied aspects of diet during pregnancy and autism risk involving multivitamins, iron, folic acid, vitamin D, and more, but the evidence is still inconclusive.

After adjusting for several potentially influencing factors in both mothers and children, we found that multivitamin use, with or without additional iron and/or folic acid, was associated with a lower likelihood of child autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability relative to mothers who did not use folic acid, iron, and multivitamins.

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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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Association of Brain White Matter Structure With Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Adriana Di Martino, MD Associate Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry NYU Langone Health

Dr. Di Martino

Dr. Adriana Di Martino, MD
Associate Professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
NYU Langone Health

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

Response: While there has been an increased awareness of the co-occurrence of symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with a primary diagnosis of ASD, only recently has there been an appreciation that a substantial proportion of children with ADHD may also have ASD traits. These symptom domains overlap pose a challenge for accurate recognition and targeted treatments, yet their underlying mechanisms have been unknown.

With more traditional diagnostic group comparisons we detected a significant influence of ASD on white matter organization, but our analyses of the severity of symptoms across individuals revealed an association between autistic traits and white matter organization, regardless of the individual’s diagnosis. These findings were mostly centered around the corpus callosum, a structure that enables communication between the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

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