WASHINGTON (Feb. 19, 2014) Collaborative research out of the George Washington University (GW) reveals new information on the pathogenesis of feeding and swallowing difficulties often found in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and intellectual disability. Using an animal model of DiGeorge/22q11 Deletion Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes autism and intellectual disability, the GW group found clear signs of early feeding and swallowing disruption, and underlying changes in brain development. The research, featured on the cover of Disease Models & Mechanisms, may even lead to a cure for these difficulties known as pediatric dysphagia.
"We found that the same mechanisms causing neurodevelopmental disorders are disrupting development in parts of the nervous system that control swallowing and feeding," said Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and physiology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and director of the GW Institute for Neuroscience. "Cranial nerves, which control food intake and swallowing, aren't developing correctly, which likely contributes to mis-coordination. This is good news this is something we can fix."
Up to 80 percent of children with developmental disorders have difficulty ingesting, chewing, or swallowing food, leading to food aspiration, choking, or life-threatening respiratory infections. Despite its high co-incidence with developmental disorders, little was previously known about pediatric dysphagia.
"A lot of children with pediatric dysphagia tend to be sicker from birth onward. Making the health of these kids as stable as possible from birth onward would allow clinicians to pick up on developmental signs sooner, which are often masked by more immediate problems like having ear or respiratory infections, not sleeping or not gaining weight," said LaMantia. "The physiological stress caused by the complications of dysphagia early on
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George Washington University