"Autism is on the rise, especially in the last two decades either because of environmental factors, expanded diagnostic criteria, or both. Yet almost nothing is currently known about the predisposing molecular and histological changes that differentiate a newborn destined to be neurologically normal from an autistic one," said Steinman.
Because no effective treatment or prevention for autism exists, research examining Steinman's idea is critical, as it may hold the key to understanding the cause of this often devastating illness. In his article, Steinman proposes a study to investigate this hypothesis, and if this study supports his theory that identification of reduced IGF at birth is later followed by the appearance of autistic characteristics, then the subsequent development of a simple biomarker blood test is equally critical.
In the proposed study, a sample of umbilical cord blood would be collected immediately after birth to measure IGF. Alternatively, a routine heel-stick blood sample might be used, as these are already collected from newborns within a day or two after birth to test for inborn errors of metabolism in most U.S. hospitals. Then the data collected at birth would be compared with the neurologic evaluation of the baby at 18 to 36 months of age.
If successful, the next phase of proposed research would entail detecting depressed IGF levels in amniotic fluid during the second trimester of pregnancy. This might be followed by supplementation of the growth factor before symptoms of autism develop.
"Further investigation into whether pharmaceutical treatment in the early postnatal period of newborns with a suspicion of a tendency of developing autism could reverse the effects of having had patho
|Contact: Gary Steinman|
Touro College Of Osteopathic Medicine