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Autism Linked with Maternal Obesity; New Autism Medication Looks Promising
With over a billion dollars plugged into autism research this last decade, we may be reaching a break-through point. Autism, which now effects 1 out of 88 children, is considered a national pandemic disease. It is notoriously hard to study, and research has dead-ended again and again. Though junk-research such as the spurious connection between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly discredited, some other connections are showing to hold their ground. The latest research has correlated autism to maternal obesity, paternal age, the distance between the parent’s house and the nearest freeway; and new research and possible medicine has made leads into how autism works in the brain.
One correlation lately discovered is the increase in autism amongst children of women were were obese while pregnant. “The risk of an autistic child is 1 out of ever 88, and in obese women it went up to one out of every 60, so really it almost doubles,” said Dr. John Inman III, and explained, “Apparently folks who do have a weight issue, have more inflammable potential in the body and perhaps that is what is causing some brain issues in these children.”
The problem seems to be excess blood sugar in the mother’s blood, which damages the fetus’s brain. “Well it is just the hormones in the pregnancy interfere with the glucose metabolism, it raises the blood sugar up.” A significant find, considering that one third of women at the childbearing age in the U.S. are obese.
Other connections that have held their water include the correspondence that children born less than two blocks from a freeway are twice as likely to develop autism, perhaps due to auto exhaust pollution.
The journal Neuron told of a study, Wednesday, that identifies the symptoms of autism with a genetic condition called Fragile X, that may develop into autism. In this case, the synaptic gaps between cells are overfilled with certain proteins, cutting off communication. In studies with laboratory mice, even the adolescent mice recovered from the severest symptoms of autism, upon receiving a newly invented medicine, showing that future drugs for humans could reverse autism even in adolescents and adults.
“I was thrilled,” said Mark Bear, a MIT neuroscientist who headed the research team. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is right now, and how anxiously I am awaiting the impact of these clinical trials. It seems that in Fragile X and maybe other causes of autism, there is essentially a metabolic problem.”
Six companies are working on medications that will address these problems, and it could be available within the next few years.