NEW YORK, NY A New York-based physician-researcher from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, best known for his research into fertility and twinning, has uncovered a potential connection between autism and a specific growth protein that could eventually be used as a way to predict an infant's propensity to later develop the disease. The protein, called insulin-like growth factor (IGF), is especially involved in the normal growth and development of babies' brain cells. Based on findings of prior published studies, Touro researcher Gary Steinman, MD, PhD, proposes that depressed levels of this protein in the blood of newborns could potentially serve as a biomarker for the later development of autism. However, this connection, described below in greater detail, has never been directly studied. Steinman presents his exciting theory in the journal Medical Hypotheses (article in press), available online today, January 31.
IGF stimulates special cells in the brain to provide an essential insulating material, called myelin, around the developing nerves that is needed to efficiently transmit important messages about everything the brain controls from physical functions such as movement to mental functions such as sensory perception, thinking and emotions. In the developing fetal and pediatric brain, myelin is also important for nerve fibers in one area of the brain to form proper pathways to other regions, allowing the body to hone functions over time. Insufficient IGF results in insufficient insulating material, as has been seen in brain biopsies of autistic individuals, and may impede proper pathway development. Steinman is proposing that this potential relationship between neonatal IGF levels and autism be directly studied.
In the United States, autism is currently reported in 1 in 88 live births about 125 new cases every day and it is four times more common in boys than in girls. Women who have given birth to an autistic child have approximate
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Touro College Of Osteopathic Medicine