Autism is a brain disorder characterized by difficulty communicating and forming relationships with others and in using language and abstract concepts. Present from early childhood, autism can be medically diagnosed by the time a child reaches age two. There is currently no cure for the condition and the cause remains unknown. However, scientists have discovered a hormone deficiency link that may provide answers.
One in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), per estimates from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM). It’s been long suspected that a faulty gene or genes may play a crucial role in the condition. While scientists have identified external factors that may contribute to autistic behavior, such as viruses, chemicals, lack of oxygen at birth, and Rubella (German measles) in the pregnant mother, no single gene has been found to cause autism. The theory that vaccines are the cause of autism remains unproven. According to mychildwithoutlimits.org, “…many well-done, large-scale studies have now been performed that have failed to show a link between thimerosal and autism.” Thimerosal, once suspected to cause autism, is a mercury-based preservative that is no longer used in childhood vaccines in the United States.
Scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, believe that a hormone which regulates blood pressure holds important clues. Recent tests performed on rhesus monkeys demonstrate that less social animals had nearly one-third lower levels of the hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP). According to the study, a similar deficiency was noted in 14 autistic boys. Telegraph.co.uk shares, “For the tests, the scientists measured levels of two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, in the monkey’s blood and in their cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain. Both hormones are peptides implicated in a variety of social roles, including parental care and bonds between mates. Some prior studies have hinted that these hormones may also be involved in autism.”
It is hoped that the hormone deficiency link will help scientists create a simple and accurate test for early diagnosis of autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that less than half the children identified with autism, roughly 43%, received comprehensive developmental evaluations by age three. Early intervention for young children on the autism spectrum is important for the well-being of the child and for caregivers. Additionally, it is hoped that the hormone deficiency link will provide valuable insight in the fight for a cure.