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Study Shows Autism Begins During Pregnancy

FetusEmerging research presents new evidence that autism begins during pregnancy.

Investigators analyzed 25 genes in postmortem brain tissue of children with and without autism. These included genes that serve as biomarkers for brain cell types in different layers of the cortex, genes implicated in autism and several control genes.

Their findings are published in the online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Building a baby’s brain during pregnancy involves creating a cortex that contains six layers,” said Eric Courchesne, Ph.D., professor of neurosciences and director of the Autism Center of Excellence at University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego).

“We discovered focal patches of disrupted development of these cortical layers in the majority of children with autism.”

The findings confirm the hypothesis that for some children with autism, the brain can sometimes rewire connections and the child can improve abilities — especially with early therapeutic intervention.

Rich Stoner, Ph.D., of the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence created a unique three-dimensional model visualizing brain locations where patches of cortex had failed to develop the normal cell-layering pattern.

“The most surprising finding was the similar early developmental pathology across nearly all of the autistic brains, especially given the diversity of symptoms in patients with autism, as well as the extremely complex genetics behind the disorder,” said Ed S. Lein, Ph.D.

During early brain development, each cortical layer develops its own specific types of brain cells, each with specific patterns of brain connectivity that perform unique and important roles in processing information.

As a brain cell develops into a specific type in a specific layer with specific connections, it acquires a distinct genetic signature or “marker” that can be observed.

The study found that in the brains of children with autism, key genetic markers were absent in brain cells in multiple layers.

“This defect,” Courchesne said, “indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells — something that begins in prenatal life — had been disrupted.”

“Equally important,” said the scientists, “these early developmental defects were present in focal patches of cortex, suggesting the defect is not uniform throughout the cortex.”

The brain regions most affected by focal patches of absent gene markers were the frontal and the temporal cortex, possibly illuminating why different functional systems are impacted across individuals with the disorder.

The frontal cortex is associated with higher-order brain function, such as complex communication and comprehension of social cues. The temporal cortex is associated with language.

The disruptions of frontal and temporal cortical layers seen in the study may underlie symptoms most often displayed in autistic spectrum disorders. The visual cortex — an area of the brain associated with perception that tends to be spared in autism — displayed no abnormalities.

“The fact that we were able to find these patches is remarkable, given that the cortex is roughly the size of the surface of a basketball, and we only examined pieces of tissue the size of a pencil eraser,” said Lein.

“This suggests that these abnormalities are quite pervasive across the surface of the cortex.”

Researching the origins of autism is challenging because it typically relies upon studying adult brains and attempting to extrapolate backwards.

“In this case,” Lein said, “we were able to study autistic and control cases at a young age, giving us a unique insight into how autism presents in the developing brain.”

“The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism,” added Courchesne.

According to the scientists, such patchy defects, as opposed to uniform cortical pathology, may help explain why many toddlers with autism show clinical improvement with early treatment and over time.

The findings support the idea that in children with autism the brain can sometimes rewire connections to circumvent early focal defects, raising hope that understanding these patches may eventually open new avenues to explore how that improvement occurs.

Source: University of California, San Diego

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 7, 2014

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Astofer Update: Iron supplements must during pregnancy

PregnancyTaking iron supplements daily during pregnancy can reduce the chances of having a small baby as well as anaemia, says a new study.

Studies of two million woman found that taking even a tiny amount of iron cut the risk of anaemia by 12 percent and low birth weight by three percent, BBC reported.

Serious iron deficiency tends to affect several women in poorer countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently recommends an iron dose of 60 mg per day for pregnant women. The British Medical Journal study analysed the results of more than 90 randomised trials and studies involving pregnant women in countries including China and Tanzania. For every additional 10 mg of iron taken each day, up to a maximum of 66 mg per day, the risks of anaemia and low birth weight decreased, the study said. Birth weight was found to increase by 15 grams with each 10 mg of iron taken per day. But researchers found no reduction in the risk of premature birth as a result of iron use, BBC said.

Previous studies have suggested there could be a higher risk of low birth weight and premature birth in pregnant women with anaemia. The study said iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia during pregnancy, especially in low and middle income countries, affecting about 32 million pregnant women in 2011.

“The recently estimated prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy in Europe was estimated to be 16.2 percent in 2011,” said Batool Haider, study author from the department of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University’s school of public health.

However, experts said women who are intolerant to iron can suffer from indigestion, bloating and other stomach problems. But reducing the dose should also reduce the side effects.

Astofer Update: Daily dose of iron during pregnancy helps improve baby’s weight

Astofer : The Hemoglobin Booster

Astofer : The Hemoglobin Booster

Researchers in the UK and US analysed the results of over 90 studies- a mix of randomised trials and cohort studies- of prenatal iron use and prenatal anaemia, involving nearly two million women.

Taking iron daily during pregnancy is associated with a significant increase in birth weight and a reduction in risk of low birth weight, a new study has revealed.

The research found that the effects were seen for iron doses up to 66 mg per day.

Researchers in the UK and US analysed the results of over 90 studies- a mix of randomised trials and cohort studies- of prenatal iron use and prenatal anaemia, involving nearly two million women.

Iron use increased a mother’s average haemoglobin levels compared with controls and significantly reduced the risk of anaemia.

There was no reduction in risk of preterm birth as a result of iron use.

However analysis of cohort studies showed a significantly higher risk of low birth weight and preterm birth with anaemia in the first or second trimester of pregnancy.

Further analysis indicated that for every 10 mg increase in iron dose per day -up to 66 mg per day, risk of maternal anaemia was 12 percent lower, birth weight increased by 15 g and risk of low birth weight decreased by 3percent.

The study was published on

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Astofer: Haemoglobin Booster

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