Autism and Biology
Autism can be described in many ways; it is an illness that can affect the communication, intelligence and socialization of an individual. According to the article The Immune System’s Role in the Biology of Autism by Paula Goines and Judy Van de Water states, “Neurodevelopmental diseases characterized by restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, and deficient language and social skills.
While there are no concrete biological markers for the disorder, immune anomalies are frequently described among individuals with ASD and their family members. ” There is new research regarding this disorder but at the present time the cause of ASD is largely unknown. There are genetic, environmental, immunological and neurological factors that are thought to play a role in the development of this disorder. Past studies of ASD have been inconsistent and controversial.
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According to the Journal of Leukocyte Biology in the article The immune response in autism: a new frontier for autism research by Paul Ashwood, Sharifia Wills and Judy Van de Water states that the studies have been inconsistent because of the small sample sizes, inappropriate controls, and the lack of consideration for ASD phenotypic heterogeneity. In recent years the studies have fixed these concerns and a link has been made with immunological factor. This immunological connection to ASD is now becoming widely accepted.
Researchers are puzzled over what causes ASD they have come to an agreement that genetics and the environment play a role. Scientists have identified many genes that seem to be associated with this disorder. The studies suggest that there are irregularities in quite a few of the regions of the brain with people that have ASD. Moreover there are other studies that suggest that people with ASD show abnormal lever of serotonin and other neurotransmitters (Goines &Van de Water). The abnormalities imply that ASD may be a result from a disturbance caused during the early stages of fetal brain development.
Furthermore, this abnormality could be cause by genes that control brain growth. There has been much research conducted about the link of immunological abnormalities related to ASD. This connection of immune and neural systems can produce important information about atypical brain development. To examine autism it is important to use healthy same age comparison groups. The comparison group should not have a history of ASD. The proper exploration of the connection of immunological features in autism could possibly lead to therapeutic interventions. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke-NINDS). There are many studies that are trying to determine the specific genetic factor associated with the development of this disorder. Studies of twins show that some people have strong genetic predisposition to autism. Studies of identical twins show that if one twin is affected by ASD there is a 90 percent chance the other twin will also have ASD (NINDS). There is also evidence that shows that in families with one child with ASD there is a risk of approximately 5 percent or 1 in 20 that the second child will also have the disorder.
This means that the risks for these families are higher than for the general population. Therefore, siblings that do not have they disorder should not be used as healthy controls in autism research. This is why researchers are looking carefully at the genes and trying to find clues to the increased susceptibility in families. In addition, in some cases, there are parents and other relatives of a child with ASD that show some mild symptoms in areas such as social and communicative skills. This parents/relative might also engage in repetitive behaviors.
There is also evidence that shows that some disorders, such as bipolar disorder, can happen more frequently in the families of people with ASD (NINDS). Furthermore there is current research that shows that there are subsets of mothers of autistic children that have circulating antibodies that target the fetal brain. There are certain patterns in the antibodies and they are only found in mothers of autistic children not in the control group mothers (Goines & Van de Water). Children with ASD may appear to develop normal but may later show symptoms.
Some of the characteristics of ASD are that there is impairment in social interaction; symptoms can show up in early infancy, the person is unresponsive and in some cases the individual may focus one item for a long period of time. Children with ASD may also fail to respond to their names. They also avoid contact with people and for the most part they do not know how to interpret other people emotions. They do not understand social cues such as tone of voice or face expressions so it is difficult for them to determine what others are thinking or feeling. Children with this disorder also participate in repetitive movements.
An example of repetitive movement would be rocking, twirling or they may engage in self-abusive behavior such as biting and head banging. Children with ASD also are late speakers they may at times refer to themselves in the third person instead of “I” or “me. ” There is also evidence that shows that children with ASD may have other conditions. NINDS website states, “Children with characteristics of an ASD may have co-occurring conditions, including Fragile X syndrome (which causes mental retardation), tuberous sclerosis, epileptic seizures, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder.
About 20 to 30 percent of children with an ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood. ” In conclusion, there is much research on autism. Scientist and researchers have not contributed the disorder to one specific attribute but instead they believe there are multiple factors that contribute to autism. Autism is a difficult disorder to comprehend there are factors that take place and learning about autism is a continuous process.
Ashwood, P., Wills, S., & Van de Water, J. (2006). The immune response in autism: a new frontier for autism research. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 80(1), 1-15. Retrieved from http://www.jleukbio.org/content/80/1/1.full.pdf+html “Autism fact sheet,” NINDS. (2009, September). Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm
Goines, P., & Van de Water, J. (2010). The immune system’s role in the biology of autism. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898160/