A serious developmental disorder that affects more than 1 in 100 people, autism is a disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. In a new hope for people with the disorder, researchers who studied the brains of eight children with autism hints to have found the main driver of the disorder that impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual.
Conducting the study on the brains of eight children with autism and without the disorder, researchers think that inflammation may be main driver behind autism. The team, led by Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says the findings suggests that drugs that target anti-inflammatory proteins could one day be an effective treatment for autism.
The study looked at the brains of 16 male Caucasian children who had died. The finding showed that eight of the children had ASD and eight didn't. Results showed that the brains of the children with ASD had increased numbers of a protein called Interleukin-18 (IL-18). This particularly occurred in the amygdala, the part of the brain that play a key role in the processing of emotions, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in cognitive skills that include working memory, attention and evaluating rewards.
IL-18 is known to bring about serious inflammatory responses, which suggests it may play a role in some inflammatory diseases, particularly of the skin such as psoriasis.
Researchers also found increased numbers - but not as many - of IL-37, which is an anti-inflammatory protein.
They believe that drugs that target IL-37 could be a therapeutic treatment and decrease the amount of IL-18 in the brain.
'ASD does not have a distinct pathogenesis or effective treatment. Increasing evidence supports the presence of immune dysfunction and inflammation in the brains of children with ASD,' the authors wrote.
'These findings highlight the important role...of IL-37 in the inhibition of inflammation, thus supporting the development of IL37 as a treatment for ASD.'
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder in which sufferers have a hard time communicating and with behaviour. Children are usually diagnosed by age two, the most common signs include reduced eye contact, not responding to their name and performing repetitive movements.
(With inputs from agencies)