redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine and the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis claim to have discovered a new method of determining a child´s potential risk of becoming autistic.
According to CBS News reporter Ryan Jaslow, the researchers report doctors may be able to detect clues about a child´s risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by examining the placenta at the time of birth.
The study, which was published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry, looked at placentas from over 200 recent births. The investigators discovered these organs, which are used to transmit nutrients from a mother to her child, are more likely to have “abnormal folds and creases” in families with a high genetic risk of having an autistic child, added Pam Belluck of the New York Times.
Senior author Harvey Kliman, a research scientist in the Yale School of Medicine´s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, and colleagues reviewed 117 placentas from infants of at-risk families (i.e. those with at least one previous autistic child) and compared them to 100 control placentas.
They found placentas from at-risk children had as many as 15 trophoblast inclusions (abnormal placental folds and abnormal cell growths). Conversely, none of the control placentas had any more than two trophoblast inclusions. According to Kliman, a placenta with four or more of these folds and cell growths can conservatively predict an infant´s risk for autism with a 96.7 percent probability.
Kliman told FoxNews.com´s Loren Grush he accidentally discovered this potential autism test while examining the tissue of lost pregnancies to determine why the infant wound up dying.
One of the primary components he studied was chorionic villi, which are small finger-like structures located in the placenta that help transport blood from mother to fetus. These chorionic villi are covered and protected by trophoblasts, which are typically smooth but can form inclusions when the cells grow abnormally.
“At birth we have a tool now that can tell us who’s at risk and who isn’t at risk for autism,” Kilman told Jaslow.
“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,” he added in a statement.
An estimated one out of every fifty American children are diagnosed with autism each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, while intervention is most effective during the first year of life, most children aren´t diagnosed with the disorder until at least age three or four, Grush explained.