Can changes in the brain’s estrogen signaling help to explain increased rates of ASD in males? A recent study being carried out suggests a partial explanation for how males are affected in higher numbers.
According to the existing data, there are four boys diagnosed with autism for every girl diagnosed with the condition.
Autism disorder encompasses a wide spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders such as childhood disintegrative disorders and Asperger’s syndrome, among others. These characteristics of disorders are seen to be influenced by impaired levels of social interaction and repetitive/restricted behaviors.
The available data further sheds light on the number of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome. The numbers show that 10 boys for every girl are diagnosed with Asperger’s.
Researchers believe the ratios could highlight a direct relationship between the sex hormones present in males and females and the ways the disorder is being influenced.
During early 2004, a group of researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK analyzed levels of testosterone by analyzing the wombs of 70 pregnant ladies.
These ladies were made to regularly follow up during the course of the study and were asked to complete a well-researched checklist when their children had reached 4 years of age. The checklist was designed to pick up necessary details about the difficulties in social and behavioral challenges associated with autism.
Interestingly, the team observed that infants whose mothers were seen to have greater levels of testosterone present in their womb were less-curios. They were also observed to be unwilling to make any eye contact and struggled with fitting in to their social circles.
It should, however, be noted that the children in the study were not born autistic. Nevertheless, the researchers wanted to test the autism theory that is known to be more aggressive toward the male brain.
The group of researchers at Georgia Regents University have successfully analyzed the brain tissues from different people who are autistic and another set of people who are not autistic. The group of researchers supposedly wanted to measure the different levels of estrogen and aromatase in regions of the brain.
Aromatase can be defined as an enzyme that is seen to be responsible for converting testosterone levels into more portent estrogen.
Nevertheless, the authors suggest getting the brain-tissue samples of autistic humans is not an easy task.
The researchers highlight they have found ERβ mRNA levels to be 35% less and aromatase mRNA levels 38% less in autistic individuals.
Anil Kumar Pillai, lead author of the study, says this is the first of its kind that shows estrogen receptors in the autistic human brains could possibly be different in comparison to their normal peers.
Although this could be a possible reason for gender bias, Pillai warns that there is still a need to determine the different causes that result in estrogen protein production.