'Master regulator' gene -- long tied to autism disorders -- stimulates other genes in early brain development

Chemical modifications to DNA's packaging -- known as epigenetic changes -- can activate or repress genes involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and early brain development, according to a new study to be published in the journal Nature on Dec. 18.

Biochemists from NYU Langone Medical Center found that these epigenetic changes in mice and laboratory experiments remove the blocking mechanism of a protein complex long known for gene suppression, and transitions the complex to a gene activating role instead.

Fine particulate air pollution linked with increased autism risk

Women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter specifically during pregnancy--particularly during the third trimester--may face up to twice the risk of having a child with autism than mothers living in areas with low particulate matter, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The greater the exposure, the greater the risk, researchers found. It was the first U.S.-wide study exploring the link between airborne particulate matter and autism.

Association between air toxics and childhood autism

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers' pregnancies and the first two years of life compared to children without the condition, according to the preliminary findings of a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health investigation of children in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This research, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will be presented today at the American Association for Aerosol Research annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Siblings of children with autism can show signs at 18 months

Published in the October Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, this is the first large-scale, multi-site study aimed at identifying specific social-communicative behaviors that distinguish infants with ASD from their typically and atypically developing high-risk peers as early as 18 months of age.

Chemical present in broccoli, other vegetables may improve autism symptoms

A small study led by investigators at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found evidence that daily treatment with sulforaphane – a molecule found in foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage – may improve some symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. In their report being published online in PNAS Early Edition, the investigators describe how participants receiving a daily dose of sulforaphane showed improvement in both behavioral and communication assessments in as little as four weeks.

Mouse Version of an Autism Spectrum Disorder Improves When Diet Includes a Synthetic Oil

When young mice with the rodent equivalent of a rare autism spectrum disorder (ASD), called Rett syndrome, were fed a diet supplemented with the synthetic oil triheptanoin, they lived longer than mice on regular diets. Importantly, their physical and behavioral symptoms were also less severe after being on the diet, according to results of new research from The Johns Hopkins University.

Pentagon to cut autism healthcare payments in half

As part of an effort to reduce its healthcare costs, the Pentagon is planning to slash payments in half to providers who work with autistic children under TRICARE, the military’s healthcare plan.

The latest TRICARE manual, released in September, cuts their pay from $125 a hour to between $50 and $68 an hour.