Monday, April 16, 2007

Autism - Not Just a Brain Disorder?

Monicka blogged recently about the statistics that indicate that Autism and autism-spectrum disorders are on the increase. (see Autism Statistics)

Autism has long been regarded as a disorder of the brain, probably genetic in origin. However, recent research suggests that the truth may be much, much more complex.

  • One gene, called MET, has been isolated and shown to double the risk of a person developing autism. MET is a gene that affects the nervous and immune systems, and the gut. And surprisingly, this gene is found in 47% of the population. MET is affected by exposure to various toxins.

  • There are suggestive (but not conclusive) correlations between areas of high environmental toxins and increases in autism rates.

  • A 2005 study by Carlos Pardo found that autistic patients had inflammation in specific brain cells that are important for immune responses.

  • Huge numbers of autistic children have histories of immunologically-related symptoms such as chronic ear or stomach infections, eczema and allergies
These and other findings suggest that Autism is affected not only by multiple genes but also multiple environmental factors - and that it is a complex disorder not just of the brain but of the immune and digestive systems.

Given the dramatic rise in the number of children diagnosed with Autism, and the public concern, it is encouraging to note that many new research initiatives are being launched, and new funding is being made available. In the USA, for example, the Combating Autism Act of December 2006 authorized nearly $1 billion for autism-related research and intervention between now and 2010.

Happy Parenting


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