Today, the center for disease control and prevention is reporting a rise in autism cases in the States and around the world. According to research conducted among 8-year-old kids, one in 54 has autism, which is an increase from the previous estimate of one in 59 children. Since the rates are rising, the scientists and community are all becoming more interested in autism research and investing more money into uncovering all the secrets of this elusive condition.
According to some scientists, autism is caused by a gene variation, but others don’t agree, claiming that environmental factors are to blame for this neurotype (mainly exposure to toxins). Some even think that intestinal microbiome imbalances are the culprit for autism. It’s clear to see that we lack an understanding of autism, but science is trying to help with new research every year. Here are some new findings that might interest all affected parties:
Some research is solely focusing on gene variant investigations scientists think cause ASD. According to a recent analysis of the DNA of more than 35,500 people around the world (including almost 12,000 people with autism), scientists managed to identify 102 gene variations linked to autism and its increased probability. 53 of the genes identified in the study are solely associated with autism and have no connection to other developmental conditions.
Contributing factors exploration
Just recently, a multiyear study funded by the CDC was started and it’s still going strong in its aim to learn more about factors linked to autism. It’s important to highlight the Study to Explore Early Development, a collaboration between six studies. These studies focused on children between the ages of 2 and 5, and one of the main goals of the studies is to discover health conditions that attack autistic and neurotypical kids and the factors that are linked to an increased probability of developing ASD. Since this research is extensive, it has many goals, one of which includes identifying the physical and behavioral characteristics of children with autism. It also includes the subjects of effective autism resources like special needs toys and activities. These findings can help parents make their autistic kids’ lives so much more pleasant and less stressful.
Research in the field of biology has led to certain interesting findings in cell malfunction in people with ASD. Baltimore Institute for Brain Development studied a decrease in myelin integrity, a sheath that surrounds nerve cells of the brain. There’s a gene variant-based malfunction in cells that produce myelin. This study was published in Nature Neuroscience.
Gut health and autism research
Maybe the most interesting and intriguing research lately shows a possible connection between the gut microbe and autism. Several studies managed to discover a link between imbalances in the gut biome and autism spectrum disorder. On top of that, we have a growing pile of evidence that by balancing the microbes in the gut can reverse some of the disparities and improve unwanted behaviors and symptoms of ASD.
For instance, the mice that lack a certain gene (CNTNAP2) which is linked to autism, have an unusual collection of microbes in their gut. These mice also exhibit similar social behaviors to autistic people. However, when they get treated with Lactobacillus Reuteri, a common bacteria missing from their gut biome, their social behaviors tend to improve and start resembling that of healthy mice.
New tests and diagnostics
Autism is not just hard to deal with and understand, but it’s also hard to detect, especially in young kids. According to research, early diagnosis and treatment can result in better long-term effects on autistic kids and adults, so it’s crucial for us to get new tests and diagnostic tools. Luckily, the community is working on new methods of diagnosis for autism neurotype.
One of the new tools we got is hearing tests. Research from Harvard and the University of Miami analyzed data from auditory response hearing tests given to infants upon birth. The team managed to match data to individuals who later in life started exhibiting autistic conditions, noticing that kids with ASD diagnosis had slower brain responses to sounds during their infant testing.
Hopefully, with these new research findings, doctors, parents and people on the spectrum will be able to understand the ASD condition and receive all the best help they need. The efforts are still not done, and we can expect new breakthroughs each year.