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Autism Risk May Be Apparent At Birth, Study Finds

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New research suggests it may be possible to identify children at risk for autism from day one.

By looking at the placenta, researchers say they’ve found key markers that could be used to spot at-risk babies the day they are born. The development could be significant, potentially allowing for early intervention within the first year of life.

In the study published online Thursday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers found that abnormal placental folds and abnormal cell growths called trophoblast inclusions are more common in babies with increased odds for autism.

Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and the University of California, Davis MIND Institute looked at 117 placentas from babies born to families with at least one child already diagnosed with autism. Such babies are considered to be at risk with previous research showing that parents who already have a child with autism are nine times more likely to have another with the developmental disorder.

The placentas were compared to those from 100 control-infants born to women with only typically-developing kids.

The study found that placentas from children in the at-risk group had as many as 15 trophoblast inclusions while babies in the control group had no more than two.

“I hope that diagnosing the risk of developing autism by examining the placenta at birth will become routine, and that the children who are shown to have increased numbers of trophoblast inclusions will have early interventions and an improved quality of life as a result of this test,” said Harvey Kliman, a research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine and a senior author of the study.

The researchers plan to continue to track the children involved in the study to find out whether or not they are ultimately diagnosed with autism.

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Comments (4 Responses)

  1. Carol Morris says:

    I would suggest broadening the investigation to include other differences as well…the trophoblasts may be indicative of multiple risks, no?

  2. MeToo says:

    Exactly what does “at risk for autism” mean? This wording implies that autism is something that develops after birth, and can be prevented if caught in time.

    I’m waiting for headlines like “Babies’ reaction to lights can predict risk of blindness”, and “Infant’s’ reaction to noise can predict risk of deafness.”

    Noticing a congenital condition is rarely mistaken for the sudden “development” of that condition… unless the condition is autism, which is typically not “noticed” until the toddler years. But it was already there.

  3. DocDen says:

    I interpreted “at risk for autism” to mean something different. My thought is that the trophoblasts MAY indicate that the child has autism, but as you indicated, since this can only be determined later in a child’s life, one can only say that they are “at risk…” rather than “they have…”

  4. MeToo says:

    Is the term “at risk” used in other conditions and disorders that are present from birth but not yet recognized? I have yet t see that.

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