Children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms have altered digestive genes

Autism is a condition characterized by impaired communication and social interaction, restricted and repetitive behaviours. Many children with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal problems. Researchers from the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School examined biopsies from 22 children – 15 with autism and 7 who are developing typically –  and found that children diagnosed with autism and gastrointestinal problems have abnormalities in the levels of genes, for enzymes that breakdown sugars and for molecules that transport the sugars from the intestines into the bloodstream.

This study is the first of its kind to look at mucosal communities and to link findings to expression of genes important in carbohydrate metabolism and transport. In some children, special diets and antibiotics have been associated with improvement in autistic symptoms, which explains why these findings are important. These findings provide a framework for developing and testing new hypotheses concerning the role of malabsorption and microflora in autism and related disorders.

Source: Columbia Universitylman School of Public Health

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First Published in September 2011

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