Sunday December 8, 2019

High Levels of Oestrogen Could Cause Autism

In 2015, the researchers measured the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones, including two known as androgens

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Oestrogen, Autism, High
Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the discovery adds further evidence to support the prenatal sex steroid theory of autism first proposed 20 years ago. Pixabay

Researchers have identified a link between exposure to high levels of oestrogen sex hormones in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism.

Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the discovery adds further evidence to support the prenatal sex steroid theory of autism first proposed 20 years ago.

In 2015, the researchers measured the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones, including two known as androgens, in the amniotic fluid in the womb and discovered that they were higher in male foetuses who later developed autism.

These androgens are produced in higher quantities in male than in female foetuses on average, so might also explain why autism occurs more often in boys. They are also known to masculinise parts of the brain and to have effects on the number of connections between brain cells.

Oestrogen, Autism, High
Researchers have identified a link between exposure to high levels of oestrogen sex hormones in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism. Pixabay

“This new finding supports the idea that increased prenatal sex steroid hormones are one of the potential causes for the condition. Genetics is well established as another, and these hormones likely interact with genetic factors to affect the developing foetal brain,” said study lead author Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor at the University of Cambridge.

Now, the same scientists have built on their previous findings by testing the amniotic fluid samples from the same 98 individuals sampled from the Danish Biobank, which has collected amniotic samples from over 100,000 pregnancies, but this time looking at another set of prenatal sex steroid hormones called oestrogens.

This is an important next step because some of the hormones previously studied are directly converted into oestrogens. All four oestrogens were significantly elevated, on average, in the 98 foetuses who later developed autism, compared to the 177 foetuses who did not.

High levels of prenatal oestrogens were even more predictive of the likelihood of autism than were high levels of prenatal androgens (such as testosterone).

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Contrary to popular belief that associates oestrogens with feminisation, prenatal oestrogens have effects on brain growth and also masculinise the brain in many mammals.

“This finding is exciting because the role of oestrogens in autism has hardly been studied and we hope that we can learn more about how they contribute to foetal brain development in further experiments. We still need to see whether the same result holds in autistic females,” said Alexa Pohl from the University of Cambridge. (IANS)

Next Story

Morning Sickness Can Increase Autism Risk in Children: Study

Awareness of an association may create the opportunity for earlier diagnosis and intervention in children at risk of autism

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Children
For the study published in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of nearly 500,000 pregnant women and their Children born between 1991-2014 in Southern California. Pixabay

Children whose mothers had hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, during pregnancy were 53 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a study said.

Hyperemesis gravidarum occurs in less than five per cent of pregnancies. Affected women experience intense nausea and are unable to keep down food and fluids.

This could lead to dangerous dehydration and inadequate nutrition during pregnancy.

“This study is important because it suggests that children born to women with hyperemesis may be at an increased risk of autism,” said the study’s lead author Darios Getahun, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation.

“Awareness of this association may create the opportunity for earlier diagnosis and intervention in children at risk of autism,” Getahun said,

For the study published in the American Journal of Perinatology, researchers reviewed the electronic health records of nearly 500,000 pregnant women and their Children born between 1991-2014 in Southern California.

They compared children whose mothers had a diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy to those whose mothers did not.

Children
Children whose mothers had hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, during pregnancy were 53 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, a study said. Pixabay

The researchers found that exposure to hyperemesis gravidarum was associated with increased risk of autism when the disease was diagnosed during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, but not when it was diagnosed only in the third trimester.

Exposure to the disease was associated with the risk of autism regardless of the severity of the mother’s hyperemesis gravidarum, the study said.

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The results are consistent with the hypothesis that women experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum have a poor nutritional intake, which might, in turn lead to potential long-term neurodevelopment impairment in their children. (IANS)