New Hope in Treatment of Autism in the Form of Stem Cells

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If you or your loved one suffer from any level of autism, you should be excited to know scientist are making great strides in the direction of treating this disease. By using human stem cells to grow the very first mini humans brains in a laboratory, scientists say this could very well lead to an entirely new level in the understanding of brain development and what goes wrong when a disorder such as autism occurs.

For the first time ever, scientists are now able to replicate the development of brain tissue in a full three dimensions. Under this study, scientists have already been able to produce a completely biological model of how a rare brain condition called microcephaly develops. This gives them a real-to-life human brain with this disorder and allows them to work directly with it to search for treatments and cures. They plan to use these very same techniques to create a mini human brain with the autism disorder so they may have a hands-on chance at finding ways to help those affected by autism.

While the development and study of mini human brains still has a very long way to go before it becomes a regular means of treating and curing diseases, it is a very positive and exciting step in working towards finding new ways to stop disease. Those who suffer from autism have a new reason for hope.

Using Oxytocin to Treat Autism

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What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a potent hormone that is generated within the nerve tissues of cells. It has many important functions within the body such as helping it to relax, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and induces breastfeeding and childbirth. In the brain it is functions as a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us have feelings of intimacy and safety with others. The hormone stimulates us to give or be receptive to affection that varies from casual to romantic feelings or parent and child bonding. It has been dubbed the “love hormone” because it creates tunnel vision by considerably heightening our focus on people we are interested in while drowning unrelated background noises or outside stimulus.

How Oxytocin Influences Autism

Scientists long suspected that people with autism-spectrum disorders experience difficulty processing social interactions because they have a compromised level of the oxytocin hormone. Until recently, the link has never been discovered as to why that is. New research reveals oxytocin as a crucial component for stimulating serotonin in the area of the brain that processes feelings of happiness with social interactions. Scientists believe that oxytocin therapy may be able to reduce feelings of social awkwardness and even boost positive social awareness for people with autism.

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 3

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We know based on research that growth and development can be severely impaired by chemicals, pesticides, metals and other toxic substances. Is there anything that we can do now?

  • We can support green efforts to decrease environmental pollutants.
  • We can prepare for pregnancy by detoxifying 3-6 months before trying to conceive.
  • We can address nutrient deficiencies and correct them.
  • We can eat a diet rich in good quality protein, green leafy vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
  • We can choose supplements like omega-3 and antioxidants to protect our cells.
  • We can breastfeed our babies as it has been shown to decrease rates of ASD and ADHD.

Children with autism can benefit from increasing nutrient and antioxidant status.  Correcting nutrient deficiencies, taking essential fatty acids and increasing antioxidant levels show positive improvements in language, social and cognitive development.

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 2

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From the time of conception, babies are de-methylated and as they grow and develop, they go through a process called methylation.  Both methylation and detoxification form an important balance that supports growth and development.  They work hand-in-hand so that as one slows down, so does that other.  Children with autism have shown to have impairments in these cycles, which may begin to explain why children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are quite susceptible to environmental toxicity.

A 2009 study completed by researchers at the University of Texas, found startling evidence that the environment plays a large role in autism.  The study was designed to determine if living close to sources of mercury pollution in 1998 were related to autism prevalence in 2002. They found that for every 1000 pounds of industrial release, there were a 2.6% increase in autism rates and a 3.7% increase associated with power plant emissions. Overall, for every 10 miles away you got from industrial or power plant sources, there was a decrease in autism rates.

The same researchers revealed an association between environmentally-released mercury and autism rates also in Texas.  For each 1,000 lb of environmentally released mercury, there was a 61% increase in ASD.

Toxins play a large role in the health of our bodies. Lead levels have been linked to ASD, ADHD and learning disabilities.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study that found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals in 2004.  Further tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in this group of children. The umbilical cord blood identified pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage. It is clear that environmental toxicity is impacting all children and adults.

 

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 1

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As a health care practitioner who specializes in autism, the relationship between autism spectrum disorder, genetics and environmental toxicity is first in my mind always and this has also been the subject of research for many years.  What we do know now is that one of the key reasons for the dramatic rise in autism rates in the last 15-20 years can be attributed to environmental toxicity.

Children with autism are more susceptible to oxidative damage and environmental toxins than other children. Autism research has shown that oxidative stress levels are high and antioxidant levels are low.  Antioxidants protect our bodies from harmful chemicals and substances circulating in food, air, water and soil.  They are essential for normal development.  Environmental toxins such as heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances lower a person’s antioxidant status.

In each of our bodies there are 7 detoxification pathways that are supported by antioxidants.  There is a relationship between normal development and detoxification that is necessary to be in balance for children to grow, thrive, and learn new skills.

Research has shown that children with autism have depleted stores of glutathione, one of the body’s most important antioxidants that support detoxification of toxic substances. Researchers have identified that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) had up to 80% of this important compound depleted.  The brain relies 100% on glutathione to support development, therefore as glutathione levels decrease, so does the “fuel” needed for development.

Promising New Environmental Links Surface as Science Continues to Search for Autism’s Roots

200114153-001Many disorders of the mind and the majority of bodily illnesses are now considered to be “caused” by some combination of a genetic predisposition or marker and some type of environmental “trigger”. A more specific version of the classic “Nature vs. Nurture” argument. Even diseases and disorders that go beyond manageable to the realm of being progressively treatable or even in some cases curable often have pathologies or beginnings that are not completely understood or not verifiable in the strict scientific sense.

One previously hotly debated environmental factor thought by some to be related to autism and specifically the rise in its prevalency is immunizations. The decade from 1993-2003 saw an 800% increase in the Autism rate. In the 1980′s children by the age of 6 were given a maximum of 10 vaccines and the incidence of Autism was roughly 1 in every 10,000 children. Based on data from 2006, the current official rate of children with Autism is 1 in 110 and the CDC’s official recommendation totals 36 vaccines by age 6.However during this same period of time two indisputable factors contributed to the apparent dramatic increase. Both parents and doctors are now much more likely to notice and diagnose Autism and the diagnostic criteria have also been expanded to a more inclusive spectrum.

Regardless of whether Autism is on the rise, the most recent study released by esteemed Harvard University points to the environmental factor of the mother’s nutrition (specifically Iron)just before and early on in pregnancy as a link to lowering risk of the disease occurring. Another new report finds specific types of air pollution to cause an increased risk of having an Autistic child. These latest study findings are very exciting because of course if environmental factors are found to be a direct cause for Autism, then there are ways intervene or change the environment and prevent this disease from developing and save countless future children form a difficult or unfullfilled life.

Maternal Obesity, Diabetes Linked to Autism, Other Disability

??????????????????Overweight mothers with either Type 2 or gestational diabetes may be more likely to have a child with autism or with other developmental disabilities according to a recent study conducted by the University of California – Davis. Because nearly one-tenth of pregnant women have a form of diabetes and one-third of women of childbearing age are obese, these findings could represent a significant risk for the health of the fetus.

Theories about how the disabilities develop include the idea that elevated maternal glucose levels leads to fetal overexposure to insulin as well as the possibility of less oxygen reaching the fetus due to insulin production and iron deficiency related to diabetes.

The study, published in the journal “Pediatrics,” looked at 1,004 pairs of mothers and children over a seven-year period. For women who do not have diabetes, 6.4 percent is the typical rate of children born with disabilities. For women with diabetes in the study, however, the rate was 9.3 percent of children born with autism and 11.6 percent of children born with developmental disabilities.

Even children of diabetic mothers who were not diagnosed with autism scored lower on tests of language and communication skills.

While the results of the study are persuasive, further testing must be done to establish a definite link between obesity, diabetes and autism or other developmental disabilities.

Does the Brain Become Unglued in Autism?

Autism is on the rise worldwide and this has prompted more funding for more research. A new study published in the journal, “Biological Psychiatry,” indicates that autistics have fewer than average adhesion molecules on their cells. Adhesion molecules are involved in cell-to-cell communication, brain development, and in the normal functioning of the immune system.

Reduced levels of adhesion molecules have been previously reported for schizophrenics and others with brain-related disorders. It has also long been thought that there may be a correlation with immune system abnormalities and those with autism spectrum disorders. This is what spurred interest in finding out if adhesion molecules may also be low in autistic individuals.

The study was conducted with children aged two to four years old, including a group diagnosed with a form of autism and a control group. They specifically looked for two specific adhesion molecules, sPECAM-1 and sP-selectin, in blood samples from all the children. Both of these adhesion molecules were found to be significantly lower in those children with autism. These results were consistent with a previous study that demonstrated a higher than normal level of the same adhesion molecules in adults with high functioning autism.

Interestingly, the research team also measured head circumference in the children they studied. This is because autism is associated with a larger than normal head circumference and adhesion molecules may play a role in this.

This is definitely a line of research to keep an eye on as it could develop into a new test for autism.

The 10 Biggest Advances in Autism Understanding in 2012

In 2012, the general understanding of what autism is became more apparent with the general public. Along with a larger public awareness, the actual costs that autism cost to the American public was outlined at $137 billion per year.

The overall effect of this was to increase the amount of research funding devoted to understanding what autism is, what causes it and how to treat it.

Below are the ten most important advances in understanding autism that were made in 2012. Each is listed in the grouping of causes, then treatments. Parents with children diagnosed with autism or those who suspect that they may be at risk for a child with the condition should pay very careful attention to this list.

  • The pre-symptom marker of autism was discovered.
  • The CDC changes the estimated rate of autism’s prevalence to 1 in 88.
  • Early intervention in children affected with autism allows their brain activity to be altered to resemble normal children.
  • Trials suggest that the criteria used to diagnose autism needs to be changed in order to be reliable.
  • The link between pollution and autism is better understood.
  • Hundreds of seemingly small mutations can all be traced to autism.
  • Further insight is provided into the link between immune system changes and autism.
  • Peer support Is found to be more effective than traditional autism treatment approaches.
  • Arbaclofen is hinted at being able to treat some of the very core symptoms associated with autism.
  • Evidence shows that children transitioning into adulthood nee more support.

These advances do more than just help the public become aware of how prevalent autism really is. Some advances have helped to understand what causes autism in children, which means that treatments can then be planned.

The biggest news, however, is that this means parents can find some peace knowing that autism can be treated more successfully. That means there is hope with the proper treatment for a normal life.