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

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Increased Sun Exposure Decreased Folate Levels In Women of Childbearing Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with
Michael Kimlin Professor of Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation Queensland University of Technology AustraliaMichael Kimlin
Professor of Cancer Prevention Research
Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Queensland University of Technology
Australia


MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: The main findings of this study were that women who where classified as having the highest level of sun exposure in our sample had a significantly larger drop in blood folate levels compared to women with lower sun exposures. This was quite a powerful finding, as all women were supplemented with folate and tested so that so that we knew that each sun exposure group had similar average levels of blood folate at the start of the study. We then measured their sun exposure over a week and took a sample of blood at the end of this week to see how the degree of sun exposure affected folate levels.

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Folate Deficiency May Affect Subsequent Generations Through Epigenetics

Erica D. Watson, PhD Lecturer in Reproductive Biology Centre for Trophoblast Research Dept Physiology, Development and Neuroscience University of Cambridge Physiology Building, Downing Site Cambridge, CB2 3EG, United Kingdom MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Erica D. Watson, PhD
Lecturer in Reproductive Biology Centre for Trophoblast Research Dept Physiology, Development and Neuroscience University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

MedicalResearch.com:  What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Watson: It has been known for decades that maternal folate deficiency increases the risk for a diverse range of health problems in her children, such as spina bifida, heart defects and growth restriction. Despite this, the molecular mechanism of folate during development was not well understood. Our study is important because it shows that the inability to break down folate due to a mutation in the gene Mtrr can affect the health not only in the immediate offspring but also of the next generation.

We used mice for the study as they metabolize folate similarly to humans and because folic acid deficiency or mutations in the genes required to break down folate in humans result in similar developmental abnormalities and diseases in mice. This enabled us to explore how the molecular mechanism of folate deficiency impacted development, thereby causing health problems.

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