Autism biomarkers – not ready for market

Earlier this week, Spectrum News (SFARI as was) carried an interesting and disturbing story about a $2,000 test purporting to identify babies at risk of autism based on an analysis of their placenta.

The test has been trademarked as PlacentASD by Dr Harvey Kliman of the Yale School of Medicine and promoted on the Yale website. In a slick marketing video, Kliman describes the rationale for the test: Continue reading

Filling the gaps in adult autism research

Autism has always been considered a condition of childhood. For years, it was thought of as a childhood version of schizophrenia. Its first appearance in the DSM diagnostic manual was as Infantile Autism.

But autistic kids grow up and become autistic adults. And just as the services and support for autistic people dry up as they reach adulthood, research on autism overwhelmingly focuses on kids rather than adults.

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GABA, autism, and the correlation that wasn’t there

Gamma aminobutyric acid (or GABA for short) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter – it makes a neuron less likely to fire. GABA is important, not only in damping down brain activity, but also in controlling the precise timing of the neural impulses. It allows groups of neurons to synchronize their activity and transmit signals across the brain.

In a 2001 paper, John P Hussman speculated that GABA might be implicated in autism. To date, the evidence has been fairly indirect. However, a paper published last week in Current Biology claims to provide the first direct evidence linking autism symptoms to GABA dysfunction.

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