Protein-Rich Blood at Birth May Presage the Onset of Autism and Mental Retardation. (Medical Research Update)

Article excerpt

Investigators of a new study examined and compared archived neonatal blood samples from children born in four northern California counties from 1983 to 1985. Among this group, some developed autism, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy; others developed normally. Their findings revealed that only those with "elevated" levels of protein in their neonatal blood samples developed autism or mental retardation later in childhood. Of the children whose neonatal blood had normal protein readings, some developed cerebral palsy and others developed without a disability. With this new method for identifying a possible precursor to some severe disabilities, say the study's authors, earlier, more accurate diagnoses may become possible, leading the way for the discovery of interventional therapies.

"Finding that major regulators of brain development were different in children with autism from normal controls in the first days of life opens an exciting new avenue of research," says Karin B. Nelson, MD, senior investigator in the Neuroepidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS--part of the National Institutes of Health and the nation's leading supporter of research on the brain and nervous system), where the study took place. …