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Latest Research

August 30, 2007

Funding autism research is a primary goal of Autism Speaks. While ten years ago there were only a handful of scientists working on this problem, now there are well over 400, and more begin work on autism every day.

To help you keep up on their efforts, we'll provide a regular digest of the latest scientific and medical research on autism. Because many are reprinted from scientific journals, they may contain technical language. Also note that due to copyright issues, abstracts may link you to sites where the full text of the article is available for a fee.

Remember to check back regularly to find updates on the latest autism research.

New Model for Autism Suggests Women Carry the Disorder and Explains Age as a Risk Factor

Only three months after its launch, the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) has been cited in its first major research publication. A team of researchers, led by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has published a paper in the July 31, 2007 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which describes a unified genetics model that predicts two different risk patterns for autism. The model is based on earlier evidence that identified spontaneous mutations, new mutations in the germ line of a parent, as occurring more frequently in families with no known history of autism as compared with families where there is a clear pattern of gneetic transmission.

Read more.

Study: Children Can Be Diagnosed with Autism by Age One

Researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute published a study this week showing that autism can be diagnosed in children as young as one year old. To read more,
click here.

NIH Scientists Discover Correlation Between Growth Hormone Levels and Autism

Researchers at NIH discovered an increase in growth-related hormones, weight, height and head size in autistic boys as compared to typically developing boys. To read more,

click here.

UCLA Study Shows Autistic Brains Can be Trained to Recognize Visual and Vocal Cues

Through the use of explicit instruction, researchers at UCLA were able to elicit an increased response in key regions of the brain in autistic boys. To read more,
click here

Researchers Reveal Structure of Protein Altered in Autism

As a result of mapping the structure of the protein complex implicated in autism spectrum disorders, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has discovered how particular genetic mutations affect this complex and contribute to the developmental abnormalities found in children with autism. Their work, published as the cover article in the June issue of the journal Structure, should help scientists pinpoint the consequences of other genetic abnormalities associated with the disorder. To read more,
click here

Department of Defense Offers $7.5 Million in Autism Research Funding Opportunities

New funding opportunities are available for the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the Department of Defense Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Program. Some of the awards are specifically designed for a broad spectrum of investigators beyond those already mentioned, such as the fields of epidemiology, immunology, education, nutrition, psychology, psychiatry, etc, to focus their research on autism spectrum disorders.
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to read more

International Meeting for Autism Research Highlights Research Advances

Researchers gathered in Seattle from May 3-5 to assess the state of autism science. The conference was attended by more than 900 scientists, physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, geneticists, neuroscientists, educators and parents, and drew participants from 30 countries around the world, including Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Israel and Japan. Autism Speaks was a primary sponsor of the meeting along with Cure Autism Now (CAN), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Autism Society of America (ASA). To read more about the conference,
click here

Institute of Medicine Convenes Workshop to Explore Environmental Factors

The promise of improved understanding of potential environmental factors in autism was the focus of a day-and-a-half-long workshop organized in Washington, D.C., by The Institute of Medicine on April 18-19, 2007. Entitled “Autism and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for Research,” the gathering focused on emerging technologies, new and existing infrastructure, and interdisciplinary research approaches necessary to forge collaborations between basic and clinical researchers. To read more about the workshop,
click here.

Toxicologists Gather to Discuss Autism Spectrum Disorders

The cause and treatment of autism spectrum disorders was the focus of two dedicated sessions at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology, held in Charlotte, N.C., in March 2007. The first autism-related session offered an overview of the role of the environment in autism while a second session focused on the use and efficacy of chelation in heavy metal poisoning and relationship to autism spectrum disorder. Click here to read more.

Discover Article Analyzes Recent Developments, Concepts

The April issue of Discover magazine features an article entitled "Autism: It's Not Just in the Head" by reporter Jill Neimark. The story provides an analysis of a few of the latest developments and concepts in autism research. Many of the scientists and projects discussed the the article were funded by Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now (CAN) and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR). Click here to read more.

Novel Autism Susceptibility Gene Identified
Gene Important to Melatonin Synthesis is Mutated in Some Individuals with Autism

A team of scientists at the Pasteur Institute, led by Cure Autism Now funded researcher Thomas Bourgeron, has published a study in Molecular Psychiatry which identifies a new autism susceptibility gene, known as ASMT, which is involved in the production of melatonin from serotonin. The researchers studied a region shared by the X and Y chromosomes called the pseudoautosomal region 1 (PAR1). Deletions of the PAR1 region had been previously reported in patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders, but the causative gene(s) were not identified. To read more,
click here

Journal Spotlights Autism Speaks-Funded Research

The January 2007 issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, dedicated to the “The Very Early Autism Phenotype,” includes 14 scientific manuscripts that describe ongoing research examining early signs of children later diagnosed with autism , and prospective studies on “at risk” infant siblings of children with autism. The research works to identify and ascertain early signs and behavioral impairments with the goal of identifying autism at the youngest age to make early intervention possible and effective. To read the editorial preface,
click here

New Study Shows Promise for Treatment of Rett Syndrome

New research has found that the genetic mutation responsible for Rett Syndrome can be reversed pharmacologically in mice. Click here to read more.

Paternal Age and Autism Associated in Family-based Sample

A recent article by Abraham Reichenberg and co-workers based on Israeli births in the 1980's reported a significant association between paternal age at birth and a child's risk for developing autism. The study reported that as paternal age increased, so did the risk of autism spectrum disorder. To read more,

click here

Autism Speaks Announces New Grants For Researchers Studying Early Intervention Strategies

Autism Speaks is proud to announce a new funding opportunity for researchers studying early intervention strategies for children at risk for developing autism. This new funding initiative reflects the mission of Autism Speaks to fund scientific research into the treatments of autism spectrum disorder, providing researchers with resources in order to help those affected with autism. To learn more, click here.

Scientists Identify Gene Mutation in Autism

French scientists have identified genetic mutations in a small number of children with autism which could provide insight into the biological basis of the disorder. Click here to read a story from Reuters.

Brain's Fear Center Shrinks in Autism's Most Severely Socially-Impaired

Scientists have discovered a change in size of the amygdala in children with autism that is associated with deficits facial expression recognition. The neuroanatomical findings observed in adolescents are linked to social impairments evidenced in early childhood. Click here to read more.

Announcement - Call for Scientific Papers

Dr. Abha Chauhan and Science Publications, New York, USA announce a Special Issue of The American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology (ISSN: 15533468) on Autism Spectrum Disorders, to be published in 2007. Click here to read more.

Scientists Gather to Discuss "Hormones of Emotion"
Translational Medicine Meeting Convenes Top Researchers in Chemistry of Emotional Regulation

Experts met last month to review recent discoveries on how the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin might regulate emotion and complex social behavior, in an Autism Speaks-sponsored gathering in Atlanta. Oxytocin and vasopressin are two peptide hormones found in the brain and shown to participate in social behavior, stress, anxiety and affiliative behaviors including social communication. Click here to read more.

Vitamin B12 Injections for Autism Show No Signs of Benefit

Preliminary results of a small ongoing study of vitamin B12 injections for children with autism showed no signs of significant benefit, researchers reported on Oct. 30, at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry meeting in San Diego, but they remained hopeful. Click here to read an article from Psychiatric Times.

Nature and Neuroscience Focus on Childhood Developmental Disorders

Nature Neuroscience, a multidisciplinary journal that publishes papers in all areas of neuroscience, has produced a special focus on childhood developmental disorders, including autism. The journal explores different perspectives on the overlap between normal and abnormal development, as well as the commonalities between different disorders. Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now and March of Dimes are sponsors of this special publication which is available online at no cost through December 2006.

To browse the special focus from Nature Neuroscience, visit

Autism Speaks Hosts Gastroenterology Workshop

Responding to community interest, Autism Speaks hosted a workshop on autism and gastroenterology in Boston on October 13, 2006. The objectives of the workshop were to (1) review current scientific evidence for GI issues associated with autism, (2) develop consensus scientific priorities for autism gastroenterology research, and (3) suggest an approach to establish best clinical practices for autism gastroenterology. Click here to read more.

Multi-Center Research Team Discovers Genetic Link to Autism

In a multi-center study of 222 families in the United States, scientists have found a strong genetic link to autism on chromosome 7. The study, in which five large universities participated, was part of the National Institutes of Health Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism, or CPEA . Click here to read more.

New Study Discovers Statistically Significant Link between Abnormally Low Cholesterol Levels and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Finding Leads Kennedy Krieger Researchers Down New Road in Autism Research

A study published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B (Neuropsychiatric Genetics) found that a small subgroup of children with ASD have abnormally low cholesterol levels (hypocholesterolemia), leading researchers to believe cholesterol may play a role in the cause of some cases of the disorder. Click here to read more.

Report: Early Abnormality in Autism

Researchers Find Placental Tissue Changes in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

In search of early markers for autism spectrum disorder, researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found abnormalities in placental tissue from children later diagnosed with the disorder.

In a report in the June 26 online issue of Biological Psychiatry, the research team told of finding a three-fold increase in placental trophoblast inclusions, a distinct abnormality, in children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, compared to a control group of unaffected children. Click here to read more.

Animal Studies Show Abnormalities Caused by Excessive Ultrasound
Developing Mouse Embryo Brains Affected; Connection to Autism Remains Unclear

Prolonged and frequent use of ultrasound waves on pregnant mice caused abnormalities in the brain of the developing mouse embryo, Yale School of Medicine researchers reported in the August 7, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Click here to read more.

Understanding the Role of Chromosome 15 in Autism

While it is thought that many genes on multiple chromosomes contribute to symptoms of autism, numerous research studies have focused on mutations of chromosome 15. In order to better explain the relationship between mutations of chromosome 15 and autism, Dr. N. Carolyn Schanen answers some of the most frequently asked questions about chromosome 15 and autism spectrum disorders. Click here to read more.

Autism Genome Project Researchers Spearhead New Genetics Discovery

Researchers have found that different genes may be responsible for causing autism in boys than in girls. The findings also support the notion that multiple genes contribute to autism spectrum disorder. Click here to read more.

Research Links Autism to Brain Structure
Cells in Amygdala Implicated, According to Autism Speaks-funded Research

A new study published by Autism Speaks-funded researcher David Amaral in the July 19, 2006 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience examined the relationship between the size of the brain structure known as the amygdala and autism-specific behaviors. Click here to read more.

Tracing the Origins of Autism: A Spectrum of New Studies

Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a monthly journal of peer-reviewed research and news on the impact of the environment on human health, published a survey of recent autism research in its July 2006 issue. EHP is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Click here to read the article.

Researchers, Scientists Share New Autism Research Findings

Nearly 900 researchers, scientists, students, parents and others were on hand in Montreal on June 1-3, 2006, at the International Meeting for Autism Research, the largest-ever of leading autism researchers from around the world. Autism Speaks was among the sponsors. For a summary of the research presented, click here.

Neurobiology of Autism Workshop Summary Made Available

A summary has been made available of a workshop focusing on the neurobiology of autism organized by Autism Speaks board member and Scientific Affairs Committee member Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom. Experts in diagnosis, neurobiology, neuroanatomy, neuroimaging, animal models and genetics gathered together at the Nov. 11, 2005, program to share the most recent scientific advances in their fields, and outlined the most important questions to answer with future research. For the summary from the Society of Neuroscience, click here (PDF).