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Thread: Autism in young boys is linked to high levels of hormones in the womb

  1. #1
    Elite Member Neptunia's Avatar
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    Jul 2011

    Default Autism in young boys is linked to high levels of hormones in the womb

    Autism in young boys is linked to high levels of hormones in the womb, new research shows

    • Children who go on to develop autism are exposed to high levels of the hormones testosterone, progesterone and cortisol before birth
    • Some of the hormones are produced in higher quantities in boys than girls
    • Researchers say findings could explain why autism is more common in males

    PUBLISHED: 09:44 EST, 4 June 2014 | UPDATED: 12:37 EST, 4 June 2014


    Children who develop autism were exposed to high levels of certain hormones when they were in the womb
    Exposure to high levels of 'male' hormones in the womb increases the chance a baby boy will develop autism, new research has revealed.

    The study showed children who develop the developmental disability are subjected to elevated levels of the hormones testosterone, progesterone and cortisol before birth.
    The researchers, from the University of Cambridge and the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, say the finding could help to explain why autism is more common in boys than in girls.

    However, they say it cannot be used as a way of screening for the condition.

    The team, led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Michael Lombardo in Cambridge and Professor Bent Nørgaard-Pedersen in Denmark, used 19,500 amniotic fluid samples stored in a Danish biobank from individuals born between 1993 and 1999.
    Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy and is collected when some women choose to have an amniocentesis tests at 15 to 16 weeks of pregnancy.

    This coincides with a critical period for early brain development and sexual differentiation, and therefore allows scientists access into this important window in foetal development.
    The researchers identified amniotic fluid samples from 128 boys later diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition and matched these up with information from a central register of all psychiatric diagnoses in Denmark.

    They found that levels of all steroid hormones were highly associated with each other and most importantly, that the autism group on average had higher levels of all steroid hormones, compared to a typically developing male comparison group.
    Professor Baron-Cohen said: ‘This is one of the earliest non-genetic biomarkers that has been identified in children who go on to develop autism.

    ‘We previously knew that elevated prenatal testosterone is associated with slower social and language development, better attention to detail, and more autistic traits.
    ‘Now, for the first time, we have also shown that these steroid hormones are elevated in children clinically diagnosed with autism.
    ‘Because some of these hormones are produced in much higher quantities in males than in females, this may help us explain why autism is more common in males.’


    Children who develop autism were subjected to high levels of testosterone, progesterone and cortisol. Levels of some of these hormones are higher in boys which could explain why autism is more common in boys

    He added: ‘These new results are particularly striking because they are found across all the subgroups on the autism spectrum, for the first time uniting those with Asperger Syndrome, classic autism, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not-Otherwise-Specified. We now want to test if the same finding is found in females with autism.’

    Dr Michael Lombardo said: ‘This result potentially has very important implications about the early biological mechanisms that alter brain development in autism and also pinpoints an important window in foetal development when such mechanisms exert their effects.’
    Steroid hormones are particularly important because they exert influence on the process of how instructions in the genetic code are translated into building proteins.
    The researchers believe that altering this process during periods when the building blocks for the brain are being laid down may be particularly important in explaining why autism develops.

    Professor Baron-Cohen said: ‘These results should not be taken as a reason to jump to steroid hormone blockers as a treatment as this could have unwanted side effects and may have little to no effect in changing the potentially permanent effects that foetal steroid hormones exert during the early foundational stages of brain development.’

  2. #2
    Elite Member Neptunia's Avatar
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    I've always wondered about hormones in relation to autism. My mother has had thyroid issues since she was in her late twenties. My brother, who has severe or profound autism, was born right before she started developing hyperthyroid issues, just a few months before. I know that thyroid hormones are different than the ones listed but still, I wonder if thyroid issues could have been a contributing factor in his autism?

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Does it say if the hormones in question are produced by the mother or the foetus?
    I'm open to everything. When you start to criticise the times you live in, your time is over. - Karl Lagerfeld

  4. #4
    Elite Member Shinola's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    Does it say if the hormones in question are produced by the mother or the foetus?
    Most articles don't make it clear. This one says it's the mother's hormone levels:

    Autism linked to mother's hormone levels - Story - Environment/Sci - 3 News
    Neptunia and sputnik like this.
    Posted from my fucking iPhone

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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    What about girls? I read an article a while ago that was basically saying autism in boys and autism in girls are really very separate things. So, boys have autism, but girls don't. They have a condition that is like autism, but not the same.

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    Elite Member Neptunia's Avatar
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    In my brother, a lot of the elements that parents seem to think cause autism today, don't apply.

    My brother is 20 years older than I am, he was born in the mid-60's before the MMR vaccine ever happened. So he didn't receive that vaccine, he actually had measles and chicken pox.

    My mother didn't breast feed him but she didn't use plastic bottles either, she used the old fashioned glass ones. So no BPA issues either, unless they came from the nipples themselves.

    My mother wasn't on birth control pills before she had him (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, concluded that women who used the oral contraceptive pill may be exposed to long-term problems from low values of "unbound" testosterone potentially leading to continuing sexual, metabolic, and mental health consequences.) I don't know if that has any consequence but I'm just throwing everything out there.

    I hate to even suggest that it's somehow the mother's fault, even by way of hormones over which she has no control. One of the reasons my mother became a psychologist who counsels and helps other parents who find out their child has autism, was because she was constantly blamed for my brother's autism, not loving enough or even too loving. It was always the mother's fault back then.

    Some theories that do apply, he was born quickly after my sister (there are some suggestions that birth order has some effect, middle born children more apt to get autism than first born and that having children right after the other ,with only a year or so in-between, could have cause some hormone issues.)

    He was also born in New Jersey, which seems to have a higher level of autism than other states. Then, my sisters, others brothers and I were born here too and we're fine.

    Also, my father is a chemical engineer and for some reason, there's a link between autism and engineering. ("Both fathers and grand-fathers of children with autism were found more than twice as often in the field of engineering, compared with fathers and grandfathers of other children." A quote from a Cambridge study written by Simon Baron-Cohen, called "Is There a Link between Engineering and Autism?")

    He also has a lot of allergies. There are some theories that it has something to do with processing gluten. Then again, everything seems to be blamed on gluten right now. He is allergic to environmental as well as chemical allergies but I am too. It is interesting though that everyone in my brother's "cottage" where he lives with 5 other autistic men, seem to be lactose intolerant.

    One theory my mother has always espoused is that my brother had two infections as a child, a bad staph infection which he acquired at the hospital where he was born and then a very bad reaction to chicken pox. My mother said it was much, much worse than my sister and other brother who had it at the same time. Maybe a virus like that can alter brain chemicals? Apparently OCD can be caused, in some cases, by a bacterial infection. Can autism be linked back to a virus or bacterial infection?

    Anyway, I just thought the hormone theory was interesting because it's sort of similar to a theory I had that linked up with my mother's hyperthyroid which developed right after my brother was born.

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