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1.  Decreased Mitogen Inducible Gene 6 (MIG-6) Associated with Symptom Severity in Children with Autism 
Biomarker Insights  2014;9:85-89.
Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) demonstrate impairment in social interactions and problems in verbal and nonverbal communication. Autism spectrum disorders are thought to affect 1 in 88 children in the US. Recent research has shown that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation is associated with nerve cell development and repair. Mitogen inducible gene 6 (MIG-6) is a 58-kDa non-kinase scaffolding adaptor protein consisting of 462 amino-acids, which has been shown to be a negative feedback regulator of EGFR and Met receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signaling.
In this study, we determined plasma levels of MIG-6, which suppresses the EGFR RTK pathway in autistic children, and compared MIG-6 levels with the EGFR ligand, epidermal growth factor (EGF), and the cMET ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). MIG-6 levels were also compared to the symptom severity of 19 different autistic behaviors.
Plasma MIG-6 concentration was measured in 40 autistic children and 39 neurotypical, age, and gender similar controls using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Plasma MIG-6 levels were compared to putative biomarkers known to be associated with EGFR and cMET and severity levels of 19 autism related symptoms [awareness, expressive language, receptive language, (conversational) pragmatic language, focus/attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, perseveration, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, hypotonia (low muscle tone), tip toeing, rocking/pacing, stimming, obsessions/fixations, eye contact, sound sensitivity, light sensitivity, and tactile sensitivity].
In this study, we found that plasma MIG-6 levels in autistic children (182.41 ± 24.3 pg/ml) were significantly lower than neurotypical controls (1779.76 ± 352.5; P = 1.76E − 5). Decreased MIG-6 levels correlated with serotonin, dopamine, Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), and urokinase receptor (uPAR) concentration, but not with other tested putative biomarkers. MIG-6 levels also correlated significantly with severity of expressive language, receptive language, tip toeing, rocking/pacing, and hand flapping/stimming.
These results suggest a relationship between decreased plasma MIG-6 levels, biomarkers associated with the EGFR pathway, and symptom severity in autism. A strong correlation between plasma MIG-6 and dopamine and serotonin levels suggest that decreased MIG-6 levels may be associated with abnormal neurotransmitter synthesis and/or action. A strong correlation between MIG-6 and uPAR and the inflammatory marker TNF-alpha suggests that low MIG-6 levels may be associated with the HGF/Met signaling pathway, as well as inflammation in autistic children.
PMCID: PMC4197901  PMID: 25342879
MIG-6; EGFR; EGF; dopamine; serotonin; uPAR; TNF-alpha; autism; symptom severity
2.  Behavioural and skill-based early interventions in children with autism spectrum disorders 
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) comprise typical or infantile autism (Kanner syndrome), Asperger’s disorder and atypical autism or pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified. The syndrome is characterized by deficits in (1) verbal and nonverbal communication, (2) reciprocal social interaction and (3) repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities.
Early behavioural interventions are based on learning theory and behaviour therapy. They take into account specific deficits in perception, emotional reactions, social interaction and communication. In Germany, these comprehensive models are not widely evaluated and implemented.
Research questions
What are the clinical effectiveness and safety of early behavioural or skills-based early interventions in autism compared to other interventions or to treatment as usual?What are specific factors responsible for the effectiveness?What are the cost-effectiveness and cost consequences of different early interventions in autism?Which legal, social and ethical aspects are relevant with regard to the implementation of the respective interventions in persons with autism?
Following a systematic review of the literature, controlled studies on early behavioural or skills-based interventions published since 2000 in English or German with children until the age of twelve are included and critically appraised. Studies must have at least ten participants per intervention group.
In total, 15 publications based on 14 studies, eight systematic reviews and one health economic study are included. Most studies evaluate early interventions based upon the Lovaas model (Early intensive behavioural treatment (EIBT), Applied behavioural analysis (ABA)). Other evaluate pragmatic interventions or interventions based on other theoretical models like specific parent interventions, responsive education and prelinguistic milieu teaching, joint attention, symbolic play, and picture exchange communication system. Behaviour analytic interventions referring to the Lovaas model remain the most empirically evaluated early interventions in autism. Preschool children with autism can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains when treated within behavioural interventions with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week. It is not clear which is the minimum duration of effective interventions, and which active components are necessary for the effectiveness. There was no high quality evidence for other comprehensive early interventions. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions. No publications concerning legal, ethical or social aspects were identified. The financial situation of persons with autisms and their families will be improved through the implementation of the “Pflege-Weiterententwicklungsgesetz” (Pf-WG). Further questions concern the organisation of care and the legal representation of autistic patients. Ethical questions arise mainly in the context of the equal supply of care to each individual patient in all regions of the country and the situation of the caregivers.
There are only a few studies with high methodology evaluating early interventions in children with autism. Most studies have a short duration with a lack of blinded outcome assessment in many cases. The lack of high quality comparative studies does not allow answering questions of comparative effectiveness of early interventions in autism. It can be concluded that interventions referring to the Lovaas model seem to have the highest effectiveness. This seems to be especially true when they are run clinic-based. However, there was no solid evidence with regard to factors responsible for the effectiveness of programms according to the ABA model. With regard to communication improvement, a systematic parent training seems to be superior to treatment as usual where a mixture of therapeutic elements is used. As well for clinical and health economic studies there is a substantial problem of generalisability into the German context. The identified health economic study is not suitable to evaluate the cost-effectiveness or cost consequences of early interventions.
Based on the available studies, there is no sufficient evidence for any of the evaluated behavioural early intervention programmes. Studies suggest that preschool children with autism in behavioural intervention programmes with a frequency of at least 20 hours per week can achieve improvements in cognitive and functional domains. There is no evidence that in a substantial portion of the children a normal development can be achieved by early interventions. Most research evidence is available for ABA. A minimal necessary intensity of interventions to achieve positive outcomes cannot be derived from literature. There are no valid statements possible as to cost-effectiveness or consequences of these interventions. Effective early interventions may reduce total autism costs in the long run. This may be achieved when the initial high treatment expenditures are more than compensated later if persons with this disorder have better social functioning.
PMCID: PMC3011283  PMID: 21289897
3.  Plasma and Cerebrospinal Fluid Pharmacokinetics of Thalidomide and Lenalidomide in Nonhuman Primates 
Thalidomide, originally developed as a sedative, was subsequently identified to have antiangiogenic properties. Lenalidomide is an antiangiogenic and immunomodulatory agent that has been utilized in the treatment of patients with brain tumors. We studied the pharmacokinetics and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) penetration of thalidomide and lenalidomide in a nonhuman primate model.
A dose of 50 mg of thalidomide or 20 mg of lenalidomide were administered once orally to each of three rhesus monkeys. Plasma and CSF samples were obtained at specified intervals and the thalidomide or lenalidomide concentrations were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. Pharmacokinetic parameters were estimated using noncompartmental methods. CSF penetration was calculated as area under the concentration-time curve (AUC) CSF/AUC plasma.
For thalidomide, the median apparent clearance (Cl/F) was 2.9 mL/min/kg, the median plasma AUC was 80 µM•hr, and the median terminal half-life (t½) was 13.3 hours. For lenalidomide, the median Cl/F was 8.7 mL/min/kg, the median AUC was 9 µM•hr, and the median t½ was 5.6 hours. Thalidomide was detected in the CSF of all animals, with a median penetration of 42%. Lenalidomide was detected in the CSF of 2 of 3 animals, with a CSF penetration of 11% in each.
Thalidomide and lenalidomide penetrate into the CSF after oral administration of clinically relevant doses. Plasma exposure to lenalidomide was similar in our model to that observed in studies involving children who have brain tumors. These results support further development of lenalidomide for the treatment of central nervous system malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3685292  PMID: 22109830
thalidomide; lenalidomide; pharmacokinetics; CSF penetration; nonhuman primates
4.  Non-Specialist Psychosocial Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Intellectual Disability or Lower-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001572.
In a systematic review, Brian Reichow and colleagues assess the evidence that non-specialist care providers in community settings can provide effective interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists is listed among the top research priorities for improving the lives of people with mental illness worldwide. The purpose of this review is to appraise which interventions for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders delivered by non-specialist care providers in community settings produce benefits when compared to either a no-treatment control group or treatment-as-usual comparator.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched electronic databases through 24 June 2013 to locate prospective controlled studies of psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. We screened 234 full papers, of which 34 articles describing 29 studies involving 1,305 participants were included. A majority of the studies included children exclusively with a diagnosis of lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders (15 of 29, 52%). Fifteen of twenty-nine studies (52%) were randomized controlled trials and just under half of all effect sizes (29 of 59, 49%) were greater than 0.50, of which 18 (62%) were statistically significant. For behavior analytic interventions, the best outcomes were shown for development and daily skills; cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support interventions were found to be most effective for improving developmental outcomes, and parent training interventions to be most effective for improving developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. We also conducted additional subgroup analyses using harvest plots. Limitations include the studies' potential for performance bias and that few were conducted in lower- and middle-income countries.
The findings of this review support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Given the scarcity of specialists in many low-resource settings, including many lower- and middle-income countries, these findings may provide guidance for scale-up efforts for improving outcomes for children with developmental disorders or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Protocol Registration
PROSPERO CRD42012002641
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Newborn babies are helpless, but over the first few years of life, they acquire motor (movement) skills, language (communication) skills, cognitive (thinking) skills, and social (interpersonal interaction) skills. Individual aspects of these skills are usually acquired at specific ages, but children with a development disorder such as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (mental retardation) fail to reach these “milestones” because of impaired or delayed brain maturation. Autism, Asperger syndrome, and other ASDs (also called pervasive developmental disorders) affect about 1% of the UK and US populations and are characterized by abnormalities in interactions and communication with other people (reciprocal socio-communicative interactions; for example, some children with autism reject physical affection and fail to develop useful speech) and a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests (for example, obsessive accumulation of facts about unusual topics). About half of individuals with an ASD also have an intellectual disability—a reduced overall level of intelligence characterized by impairment of the skills that are normally acquired during early life. Such individuals have what is called lower-functioning ASD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most of the children affected by developmental disorders live in low- and middle-income countries where there are few services available to help them achieve their full potential and where little research has been done to identify the most effective treatments. The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists (for example, teachers and parents) is necessary to improve the lives of people with mental illnesses worldwide, but particularly in resource-limited settings where psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists are scarce. In this systematic review, the researchers investigated which psychosocial interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs delivered by non-specialist providers in community settings produce improvements in development, daily skills, school performance, behavior, or family outcomes when compared to usual care (the control condition). A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; psychosocial interventions are defined as therapy, education, training, or support aimed at improving behavior, overall development, or specific life skills without the use of drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 29 controlled studies (investigations with an intervention group and a control group) that examined the effects of various psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children (under 18 years old) who had a lower-functioning ASD or intellectual disability. The researchers retrieved information on the participants, design and methods, findings, and intervention characteristics for each study, and calculated effect sizes—a measure of the effectiveness of a test intervention relative to a control intervention—for several outcomes for each intervention. Across the studies, three-quarters of the effect size estimates were positive, and nearly half were greater than 0.50; effect sizes of less than 0.2, 0.2–0.5, and greater than 0.5 indicate that an intervention has no, a small, or a medium-to-large effect, respectively. For behavior analytic interventions (which aim to improve socially significant behavior by systematically analyzing behavior), the largest effect sizes were seen for development and daily skills. Cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support (interventions that facilitates the relearning of lost or altered cognitive skills) produced good improvements in developmental outcomes such as standardized IQ tests in children aged 6–11 years old. Finally, parental training interventions (which teach parents how to provide therapy services for their child) had strong effects on developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because few of the studies included in this systematic review were undertaken in low- and middle-income countries, the review's findings may not be generalizable to children living in resource-limited settings. Moreover, other characteristics of the included studies may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or a lower-functioning ASD, and indicate which interventions are likely to produce the largest improvements in developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. Further studies are needed, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to confirm these findings, but given that specialists are scarce in many resource-limited settings, these findings may help to inform the implementation of programs to improve outcomes for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs in low- and middle-income countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Bello-Mojeed and Bakare
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information (in English and Spanish) on developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability
The US National Institute of Mental Health also provides detailed information about autism spectrum disorders, including the publication “A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder”
Autism Speaks, a US non-profit organization, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes information on the Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative
The National Autistic Society, a UK charity, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes personal stories about living with these conditions
The UK National Health Service Choices website has an interactive guide to child development and information about autism and Asperger syndrome, including personal stories, and about learning disabilities
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provides clinical guidelines for the management and support of children with autism spectrum disorders
The World Health Organization provides information on its Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), which includes recommendations on the management of developmental disorders by non-specialist providers; the mhGAP Evidence Resource Center provides evidence reviews for parent skills training for management of children with intellectual disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders and interventions for management of children with intellectual disabilities
PROSPERO, an international prospective register of systematic reviews, provides more information about this systematic review
PMCID: PMC3866092  PMID: 24358029
5.  A failure of left temporal cortex to specialize for language is an early emerging and fundamental property of autism 
Brain  2012;135(3):949-960.
Failure to develop normal language comprehension is an early warning sign of autism, but the neural mechanisms underlying this signature deficit are unknown. This is because of an almost complete absence of functional studies of the autistic brain during early development. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we previously observed a trend for abnormally lateralized temporal responses to language (i.e. greater activation on the right, rather than the expected left) in a small sample (n = 12) of sleeping 2–3 year olds with autism in contrast to typically developing children, a finding also reported in autistic adults and adolescents. It was unclear, however, if findings of atypical laterality would be observed in a larger sample, and at even earlier ages in autism, such as around the first birthday. Answers to these questions would provide the foundation for understanding how neurofunctional defects of autism unfold, and provide a foundation for studies using patterns of brain activation as a functional early biomarker of autism. To begin to examine these issues, a prospective, cross-sectional design was used in which brain activity was measured in a large sample of toddlers (n = 80) during the presentation of a bedtime story during natural sleep. Forty toddlers with autism spectrum disorder and 40 typically developing toddlers ranging in age between 12–48 months participated. Any toddler with autism who participated in the imaging experiment prior to final diagnosis was tracked and diagnoses confirmed at a later age. Results indicated that at-risk toddlers later diagnosed as autistic display deficient left hemisphere response to speech sounds and have abnormally right-lateralized temporal cortex response to language; this defect worsens with age, becoming most severe in autistic 3- and 4-year-olds. Typically developing children show opposite developmental trends with a tendency towards greater temporal cortex response with increasing age and maintenance of left-lateralized activation with age. We have now demonstrated lateralized abnormalities of temporal cortex processing of language in autism across two separate samples, including a large sample of young infants who later are diagnosed with autism, suggesting that this pattern may reflect a fundamental early neural developmental pathology in autism.
PMCID: PMC3286331  PMID: 22350062
autism; language; functional magnetic resonance imaging; sleep; temporal cortex
6.  Efficacy and safety of lenalidomide for refractory cutaneous lupus erythematosus 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(6):R265.
Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) is a chronic disease characterized by disfigurement and a relapsing course. Thalidomide has proven its efficacy in refractory cutaneous lupus disease, although it is not exempt from significant side effects and frequent relapses after withdrawal. New thalidomide analogues have been developed but lack clinical experience. The aim of this preliminary phase II study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of lenalidomide in patients with refractory CLE.
Fifteen patients with refractory cutaneous lupus disease were enrolled in this single-center, open-label, non-comparative pilot trial between January 2009 and December 2010. Oral lenalidomide (5 to 10 mg/day) was administered and tapered according to clinical response. Patients were followed up for a mean of 15 months (range: 7 to 30). Primary efficacy endpoint was the proportion of patients achieving complete response, defined by a Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus Disease Area and Severity index (CLASI) activity score of 0. Other secondary endpoints included development of side effects, evaluation of cutaneous and systemic flares, and impact on the immunological parameters.
One patient discontinued treatment due to side effects. All remaining patients saw clinical improvement and this was already noticeable after 2 weeks of treatment. Twelve of those patients (86%) achieved complete response but clinical relapse was frequent (75%), usually occurring 2 to 8 weeks after lenalidomide's withdrawal. No influence on systemic disease, immunological parameters or CLASI damage score was observed. Side effects including insomnia, grade 2 neutropenia and gastrointestinal symptoms, were minor (13%). These resolved after withdrawing medication. Neither polyneuropathy nor thrombosis was observed.
Lenalidomide appears to be efficacious and safe in patients with refractory CLE, but clinical relapse is frequent after its withdrawal.
Trial registration NCT01408199.
PMCID: PMC3674591  PMID: 23217273
7.  Autism from a Biometric Perspective 
The aim of this pilot study was to test autistic children, siblings and their parents using a biometric device based on the gas discharge visualization (GDV) technique in order to assess their psycho-emotional and physiological functional state based on the activity of the autonomic nervous system.
We hypothesize that the biometric assessment based on GDV will enable us: (1) to evaluate some specific features associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as to compare autistic children to their siblings and to controls; (2) to analyze the differences in individual values of parents of autistic children versus parents of normal children.
Out of total of 48 acupuncture points present on ten fingertips of both hands and associated to organs/organ systems, autistic children differed significantly from controls (p < 0.05) in 36 (images without filter) and 12 (images with filter), siblings differed significantly from controls (p < 0.05) in 12 (images without filter) and seven (images with filter), autistic children differed significantly (p < 0.05) from siblings in eight (images without filter) and one (images with filter), fathers of autistic children differed significantly (p < 0.05) from controls in 14 (images without filter) and three (images with filter) and mothers of autistic children differed significantly (p < 0.05) from controls in five (images without filter) and nine (images with filter) acupuncture points.
All compared groups have shown significant difference on both psycho-emotional (images without filter) and physiological (images with filter) levels. However, the differences between autistic children and controls expressed on psycho-emotional level were the most significant as compared to the other groups. Therefore, the activity of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system is significantly altered in children with autism. The biometric method based on GDV is a promising step in autism research that may lead towards creating a disease profile and identify unique signature/biomarker for autism. Further work should involve more participants in order to augment our findings.
PMCID: PMC2898030  PMID: 20623006
autism; biometric evaluation; electro-photonic emission; gas discharge visualization (GDV)
8.  The pathogenesis of autism: insights from congenital blindness. 
There is substantial heterogeneity in the aetiology and clinical presentation of autism. So how do we account for homogeneity in the syndrome? The answer to this question will be critical for any attempt to trace the links between brain pathology and the psychological disabilities that characterize autism. One possibility is that the source of homogeneity in autism is not to be found 'in the child', but rather in dysfunction of the system constituted by child-in-relation-to-other. We have been exploring this hypothesis through the study of congenitally blind children, among whom features of autism, and the syndrome of autism itself, are strikingly common. To justify such an approach, one needs to establish that the clinical features in blind children have qualities that are indeed 'autistic-like'. We conducted systematic observations of the social interactions of two matched groups of congenitally blind children who do not have autism, rating their social engagement, emotional tone, play and language during three sessions of free play in the school playground. The qualities of social impairment in the more disabled children were similar to those in sighted children with autism. Additional evidence came from independent ratings of the children in a different play setting: on the childhood autism rating scale (CARS), the socially impaired children had 'autistic-like' abnormalities in both social and non-social domains. If we can determine the way in which congenital blindness predisposes to features of autism, we shall be in a better position to trace the developmental pathways that lead to the syndrome in sighted children.
PMCID: PMC1693122  PMID: 12639331
9.  Fluoxetine for Autistic Behaviors (FAB trial): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial in children and adolescents with autism 
Trials  2014;15:230.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed off-label for children with autism. To date, clinical trials examining the use of SSRIs in autism have been limited by small sample sizes and inconclusive results. The efficacy and safety of SSRIs for moderating autistic behaviors is yet to be adequately examined to provide evidence to support current clinical practice. The aim of the Fluoxetine for Autistic Behaviors (FAB) study is to determine the efficacy and safety of low dose fluoxetine compared with placebo, for reducing the frequency and severity of repetitive stereotypic behaviors in children and adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The relationship between the effectiveness of fluoxetine treatment and serotonin transporter genotype will also be explored.
The FAB study is a multicenter, double-blinded, randomized controlled trial, funded by the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant. Participants will be aged between 7.5 and 17 years with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD. Eligible participants will be randomized to either placebo or fluoxetine for a 16-week period. Medication will be titrated over the first four weeks. Reponses to medication will be monitored fortnightly using the Clinical Global Impressions Scale (CGI). The primary outcome measure is the Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale-Modified for Pervasive Developmental Disorders (CYBOCS-PDD), administered at baseline and 16 weeks. Secondary outcome measures include the Aberrant Behaviour Scale (ABC), the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale Parent Report (SCAS-P), and the Repetitive Behaviors Scale (RBS-R), measured at baseline and 16 weeks. Participants will be invited to undergo genetic testing for SLC6A4 allele variants using a cheek swab. Continuous outcomes, including the primary outcome will be compared between the active and placebo groups using unadjusted linear regression. Binary outcomes will be compared using unadjusted logistic regression.
The FAB study is a large clinical trial to specifically investigate the efficacy of low dose fluoxetine for restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behaviors in ASD. The outcomes of this study will contribute to evidence-based interventions used in clinical practice to assist children with ASD.
Trial registration
Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12608000173392; registered on 9 April, 2008.
PMCID: PMC4067505  PMID: 24934401
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); Autism; Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs); Fluoxetine; Repetitive and Restricted Behaviors; Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT); Drug Therapy; Children; Adolescents; Safety and Efficacy
10.  Effect of pioglitazone treatment on behavioral symptoms in autistic children 
Autism is complex neuro-developmental disorder which has a symptomatic diagnosis in patients characterized by disorders in language/communication, behavior, and social interactions. The exact causes for autism are largely unknown, but is has been speculated that immune and inflammatory responses, particularly those of Th2 type, may be involved. Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are agonists of the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), a nuclear hormone receptor which modulates insulin sensitivity, and have been shown to induce apoptosis in activated T-lymphocytes and exert anti-inflammatory effects in glial cells. The TZD pioglitazone (Actos) is an FDA-approved PPARγ agonist used to treat type 2 diabetes, with a good safety profile, currently being tested in clinical trials of other neurological diseases including AD and MS. We therefore tested the safety and therapeutic potential of oral pioglitazone in a small cohort of children with diagnosed autism.
Case description
The rationale and risks of taking pioglitazone were explained to the parents, consent was obtained, and treatment was initiated at either 30 or 60 mg per day p.o. A total of 25 children (average age 7.9 ± 0.7 year old) were enrolled. Safety was assessed by measurements of metabolic profiles and blood pressure; effects on behavioral symptoms were assessed by the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC), which measures hyperactivity, inappropriate speech, irritability, lethargy, and stereotypy, done at baseline and after 3–4 months of treatment.
Discussion and evaluation
In a small cohort of autistic children, daily treatment with 30 or 60 mg p.o. pioglitazone for 3–4 months induced apparent clinical improvement without adverse events. There were no adverse effects noted and behavioral measurements revealed a significant decrease in 4 out of 5 subcategories (irritability, lethargy, stereotypy, and hyperactivity). Improved behaviors were inversely correlated with patient age, indicating stronger effects on the younger patients.
Pioglitazone should be considered for further testing of therapeutic potential in autistic patients.
PMCID: PMC1781426  PMID: 17207275
11.  Lenalidomide overcomes suppression of human natural killer cell anti-tumor functions by neuroblastoma microenvironment-associated IL-6 and TGFβ1 
Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy  2013;62(10):1637-1648.
Treatment for children with high-risk neuroblastoma with anti-disialoganglioside mAb ch14.18, IL-2, and GM-CSF plus 13-cis-retinoic acid after myeloablative chemotherapy improves survival, but 40 % of patients still relapse during or after this therapy. The microenvironment of high-risk neuroblastoma tumors includes macrophages, IL-6, and TGFβ1. We hypothesized that this microenvironment suppresses anti-tumor functions of natural killer (NK) cells and that lenalidomide, an immune-modulating drug, could overcome suppression.
Purified NK cells were cultured with IL-2, neuroblastoma/monocyte-conditioned culture medium (CM), IL-6, TGFβ1, and lenalidomide in various combinations and then characterized using cytotoxicity (direct and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity), cytokine, flow cytometry, and Western blotting assays. Anti-tumor activity of NK cells with lenalidomide, ch14.18, or both was evaluated with a xenograft model of neuroblastoma.
CM from neuroblastoma/monocyte co-cultures contains IL-6 and TGFβ1 that suppress IL-2 activation of NK cell cytotoxicity and IFNγ secretion. IL-6 and TGFβ1 activate the STAT3 and SMAD2/3 pathways in NK cells and suppress IL-2 induction of cytotoxicity, granzymes A and B release, perforin expression, and IFNγ secretion. Lenalidomide blocks IL-6 and TGFβ1 activation of these signaling pathways and inhibits their suppression of NK cells. Neuroblastoma cells in NOD/SCID mice exhibit activated STAT3 and SMAD2/3 pathways. Their growth is most effectively inhibited by co-injected peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) containing NK cells when mice are treated with both ch14.18 and lenalidomide.
Immunotherapy with anti-tumor cell antibodies may be improved by lenalidomide, which enhances activation of NK cells and inhibits their suppression by IL-6 and TGFβ1.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00262-013-1466-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3907789  PMID: 23982484
Neuroblastoma; NK cells; ADCC; Lenalidomide; IL-6; TGFβ1
12.  Brain Region–Specific Decrease in the Activity and Expression of Protein Kinase A in the Frontal Cortex of Regressive Autism 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23751.
Autism is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by impaired language, communication, and social skills. In regressive autism, affected children first show signs of normal social and language development but eventually lose these skills and develop autistic behavior. Protein kinases are essential in G-protein-coupled, receptor-mediated signal transduction and are involved in neuronal functions, gene expression, memory, and cell differentiation. We studied the activity and expression of protein kinase A (PKA), a cyclic AMP–dependent protein kinase, in postmortem brain tissue samples from the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital cortices, and the cerebellum of individuals with regressive autism; autistic subjects without a clinical history of regression; and age-matched developmentally normal control subjects. The activity of PKA and the expression of PKA (C-α), a catalytic subunit of PKA, were significantly decreased in the frontal cortex of individuals with regressive autism compared to control subjects and individuals with non-regressive autism. Such changes were not observed in the cerebellum, or the cortices from the temporal, parietal, and occipital regions of the brain in subjects with regressive autism. In addition, there was no significant difference in PKA activity or expression of PKA (C-α) between non-regressive autism and control groups. These results suggest that regression in autism may be associated, in part, with decreased PKA-mediated phosphorylation of proteins and abnormalities in cellular signaling.
PMCID: PMC3166116  PMID: 21909354
13.  Attention and word learning in autistic, language delayed and typically developing children 
Previous work has demonstrated that patterns of social attention hold predictive value for language development in typically developing infants. The goal of this research was to explore how patterns of attention in autistic, language delayed, and typically developing children relate to early word learning and language abilities. We tracked patterns of eye movements to faces and objects while children watched videos of a woman teaching them a series of new words. Subsequent test trials measured participants‘ recognition of these novel word-object pairings. Results indicated that greater attention to the speaker‘s mouth was related to higher scores on standardized measures of language development for autistic and typically developing children (but not for language delayed children). This effect was mediated by age for typically developing, but not autistic children. When effects of age were controlled for, attention to the mouth among language delayed participants was negatively correlated with standardized measures of language learning. Attention to the speaker‘s mouth and eyes while she was teaching the new words was also predictive of faster recognition of those words among autistic children. These results suggest that language delays among children with autism may be driven in part by aberrant social attention, and that the mechanisms underlying these delays may differ from those in language delayed participants without autism.
PMCID: PMC4033261  PMID: 24904503
autism spectrum disorders; eye tracking; word learning; attention to faces; language development
14.  Age-Dependent Brain Gene Expression and Copy Number Anomalies in Autism Suggest Distinct Pathological Processes at Young Versus Mature Ages 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002592.
Autism is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder, yet the genetic underpinnings of the disorder are largely unknown. Aberrant brain overgrowth is a well-replicated observation in the autism literature; but association, linkage, and expression studies have not identified genetic factors that explain this trajectory. Few studies have had sufficient statistical power to investigate whole-genome gene expression and genotypic variation in the autistic brain, especially in regions that display the greatest growth abnormality. Previous functional genomic studies have identified possible alterations in transcript levels of genes related to neurodevelopment and immune function. Thus, there is a need for genetic studies involving key brain regions to replicate these findings and solidify the role of particular functional pathways in autism pathogenesis. We therefore sought to identify abnormal brain gene expression patterns via whole-genome analysis of mRNA levels and copy number variations (CNVs) in autistic and control postmortem brain samples. We focused on prefrontal cortex tissue where excess neuron numbers and cortical overgrowth are pronounced in the majority of autism cases. We found evidence for dysregulation in pathways governing cell number, cortical patterning, and differentiation in young autistic prefrontal cortex. In contrast, adult autistic prefrontal cortex showed dysregulation of signaling and repair pathways. Genes regulating cell cycle also exhibited autism-specific CNVs in DNA derived from prefrontal cortex, and these genes were significantly associated with autism in genome-wide association study datasets. Our results suggest that CNVs and age-dependent gene expression changes in autism may reflect distinct pathological processes in the developing versus the mature autistic prefrontal cortex. Our results raise the hypothesis that genetic dysregulation in the developing brain leads to abnormal regional patterning, excess prefrontal neurons, cortical overgrowth, and neural dysfunction in autism.
Author Summary
Autism is a disorder characterized by aberrant social, communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. It develops clinically in the first years of life. Toddlers and children with autism often exhibit early brain enlargement and excess neuron numbers in the prefrontal cortex. Adults with autism generally do not display enlargement but instead may have a smaller brain size. Thus, we investigated DNA and mRNA patterns in prefrontal cortex from young versus adult postmortem individuals with autism to identify age-related gene expression differences as well as possible genetic correlates of abnormal brain enlargement, excess neuron numbers, and abnormal functioning in this disorder. We found abnormalities in genetic pathways governing cell number, neurodevelopment, and cortical lateralization in autism. We also found that the key pathways associated with autism are different between younger and older autistic individuals. These findings suggest that dysregulated gene pathways in the early stages of neurodevelopment could lead to later behavioral and cognitive deficits associated with autism.
PMCID: PMC3310790  PMID: 22457638
15.  The Emerging Role of Lenalidomide in the Management of Lymphoid Malignancies 
Lenalidomide, a novel immunomodulatory drug (IMiD), is a promising therapeutic strategy for patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and B-cell lymphomas. Biologically, the mechanisms responsible for lenalidomide activity are yet to be clearly defined. Based on preclinical models and early correlative studies conducted in parallel to clinical trials, lenalidomide has been found to enhance natural killer (NK)- and T-cell activity against tumor cells, alter the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the tumor bed, inhibit angiogenesis, and, to a lesser degree, induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells. Together, all of these biological effects appear to play a role in the activity observed in CLL or lymphoma patients treated with lenalidomide. Given the effect in NK- and T-cell function, lenalidomide is an alternative strategy to enhance the antitumor activity of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Clinical responses have been observed in patients with relapsed/refractory CLL, follicular lymphoma, small lymphocytic lymphoma, mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) treated with lenalidomide single agent. The favorable toxicity profile and route of administration made the use of lenalidomide an attractive therapy for certain types of patients (i.e. elderly, chemotherapy unfit, etc.). The erratic but serious incidence of tumor lysis syndrome and/or tumor flare reactions provides challenges in the incorporation of lenalidomide in the management of previously untreated CLL or CLL/lymphoma patients with bulky adenopathy. Correlative studies and/or retrospective analysis of lenalidomide-treated patients had identified several biomarkers associated with clinical endpoints in CLL (i.e. changes in tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α] or vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF] levels) or DLBCL (non-GCB phenotype) patients, but need to be validated. Early studies evaluating the efficacy and toxicity of lenalidomide in combination with rituximab in previously untreated indolent lymphoma are promising and warrant further study. In addition, the evaluation of lenalidomide in the maintenance setting or in combination with other target-specific agents (i.e. proteasome inhibitors) in aggressive lymphomas is being addressed in ongoing clinical trials. In summary, lenalidomide is emerging as a biologically active and novel agent in the treatment of B-cell neoplasms. Future translational and clinical studies will further define the role of lenalidomide in the management of de novo or relapsed/refractory CLL or B-cell lymphomas and identify the subset of patients most likely to gain clinical benefit.
PMCID: PMC3573391  PMID: 23556075
B-cell lymphoma; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; immunomodulatory drug; lenalidomide
16.  Sibling recurrence and the genetic epidemiology of autism 
The American journal of psychiatry  2010;167(11):1349-1356.
Although the symptoms of autism exhibit quantitative distributions in nature, estimates of recurrence risk in families have never previously considered or incorporated quantitative characterization of the autistic phenotype among siblings.
We report the results of quantitative characterization of 2,920 children from 1,235 families participating in a national volunteer register who met the criteria of having at least one child clinically-affected by an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and at least one full biological sibling.
The occurrence of a traditionally-defined ASD in an additional child occurred in 10.9% of the families. An additional 20% of non-ASD-affected siblings had a history of language delay, half of whom had exhibited autistic qualities of speech. Quantitative characterization using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) supported previously-reported aggregation of a wide range of subclinical (quantitative) autistic traits among otherwise unaffected children in multiple-incidence families, and a relative absence of quantitative autistic traits among siblings in single-incidence autism families. Girls whose standardized severity ratings fell above a first percentile severity threshold (relative to the general population distribution) were significantly less likely to have elicited community diagnoses than their male counterparts.
These data suggest that, depending on how it is defined, sibling recurrence in ASD may exceed previously-published estimates, and varies as a function of family type. The results support differences in mechanisms of genetic transmission between simplex and multiplex autism, and advance current understanding of the genetic epidemiology of autism.
PMCID: PMC2970737  PMID: 20889652
Genetics; Pervasive Developmental Disorder; Language; Broader Autism Phenotype
17.  Lenalidomide in Nonmetastatic Biochemically Relapsed Prostate Cancer: Results of a Phase I/II Double-Blinded, Randomized Study 
To evaluate the safety and activity of 6 months of treatment with lenalidomide at 5 or 25 mg/d in nonmetastatic biochemically relapsed prostate cancer.
Experimental Design
Sixty men with non-castrate, nonmetastatic, biochemically relapsed prostate cancer were stratified by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) doubling time, surgery/radiation therapy, prior androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), and randomized to lenalidomide 5 mg (n = 26) or 25 mg/d (n = 34) for 3 weeks repeated monthly for 6 months or until dose-limiting toxicity or disease progression. Toxicity was evaluated monthly, and PSAs and X-rays/scans every 6 months. Study size was determined to detect a progression rate of 40% at 6 months in either arm with 85% power (compared with a rate of 80% in the population receiving no treatment). Changes in PSA slopes were calculated using the regression of the log PSA for each patient before and during the initial 6 months and compared by t test.
Baseline variables were balanced between arms. Grade 3/4 toxicity rates were 12% (n = 3) with 5 mg and 29% (n = 10) with 25 mg (P = 0.1), most commonly neutropenia (five patients, all on 25 mg). Two patients per arm had thromboembolic events. The change in PSA slope was greater with 25 mg versus 5 mg [−0.172 (−0.24 to −0.11) versus −0.033 (−0.11 to 0.04); P = 0.005]. With a mean follow-up of 31.4 months (range 14–44), five patients on 25 mg and one patient on 5 mg remain on the study.
Lenalidomide has acceptable toxicity and is associated with long-term disease stabilization and PSA declines. Randomized studies evaluating conventional clinical disease end points in this patient population are planned.
PMCID: PMC3444815  PMID: 20978144
18.  No clinically significant drug interactions between lenalidomide and P-glycoprotein substrates and inhibitors: results from controlled phase I studies in healthy volunteers 
Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology  2014;73(5):1031-1039.
Lenalidomide, a weak substrate of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in vitro, is an oral anticancer drug eliminated predominantly via renal excretion as unchanged compound. The role of P-gp in lenalidomide disposition and the associated clinical relevance were evaluated.
Two phase I, crossover studies were conducted in healthy volunteers. In Study 1, subjects received lenalidomide (10 mg × 7 days) alone or with the P-gp substrate digoxin (0.5 mg on Day 5). In Study 2, subjects received lenalidomide (a single 25 mg dose) alone, the P-gp inhibitor quinidine (300–600 mg twice-daily × 5 days) plus lenalidomide (on Day 4), the P-gp inhibitor/substrate temsirolimus (a single 25 mg dose) alone, or lenalidomide plus temsirolimus. Pharmacokinetic and safety data were collected for lenalidomide and the co-administrated drugs.
There were no significant changes in the maximum concentration (Cmax) and area under the plasma concentration–time curve (AUC) of lenalidomide when co-administered with quinidine, digoxin, or temsirolimus. Neither the rate nor the capacity of lenalidomide renal excretion was affected by quinidine or temsirolimus, in addition lenalidomide absorption rate and bioavailability remained unchanged. Furthermore, lenalidomide had no significant effect on blood Cmax and AUC of temsirolimus and its active metabolite sirolimus (also a P-gp inhibitor/substrate). The Cmax of digoxin was slightly higher (+14 %) when administered with lenalidomide versus placebo. There were no other changes in digoxin pharmacokinetics upon co-administration with lenalidomide. No remarkable safety findings were observed.
There are no clinically significant pharmacokinetic interactions between lenalidomide and substrates or inhibitors of P-gp.
PMCID: PMC4000408  PMID: 24659021
Lenalidomide; Digoxin; P-glycoprotein; Quinidine; Temsirolimus; Drug–drug interactions
19.  Autism and exergaming: effects on repetitive behaviors and cognition 
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that leads to impairment in social skills and delay in language development, and results in repetitive behaviors and restricted interests that impede academic and social involvement. Physical exercise has been shown to decrease repetitive behaviors in autistic children and improve cognitive function across the life-span. Exergaming combines physical and mental exercise simultaneously by linking physical activity movements to video game control and may yield better compliance with exercise. In this investigation, two pilot studies explored the potential behavioral and cognitive benefits of exergaming. In Pilot I, twelve children with autism spectrum disorders completed a control task and an acute bout of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR); in Pilot II, ten additional youths completed an acute bout of cyber cycling. Repetitive behaviors and executive function were measured before and after each activity. Repetitive behaviors significantly decreased, while performance on Digits Backwards improved following the exergaming conditions compared with the control condition. Additional research is needed to replicate these findings, and to explore the application of exergaming for the management of behavioral disturbance and to increase cognitive control in children on the autism spectrum.
PMCID: PMC3218790  PMID: 22114543
autism; repetitive behaviors; exergaming; exercise; executive function
20.  Placebo-Controlled Pilot Trial of Mecamylamine for Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders 
To explore possible benefits of a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agent for autistic symptoms based on postmortem observation of nAChR abnormalities (deficient α4β2 nAChRs, excess α7 nAChRs) in brains of patients with autism.
Mecamylamine, because of its safety record in children with other disorders, was chosen for this first exploration. Twenty children with autism spectrum disorder age 4–12 years were randomly assigned for 14 weeks to placebo (n=8) or mecamylamine (n=12) in ascending fixed doses: 0.5 mg/day for 6 weeks, 2.5 mg for 2 weeks, then 5 mg/day for 6 weeks. Improvement was rated by a blinded independent evaluator. Because of small sample, data analysis was descriptive.
Eighteen participants (10 mecamylamine, 8 placebo) completed the study. All doses were well tolerated; the only side effect of note was constipation (50% compared with 25% of placebo group). Three children had clinically nonsignificant electrocardiographic QT prolongation. Both groups showed modest to moderate improvement, but differences between groups were negligible. On the primary outcome measure, the Ohio Autism Clinical Impressions Scale, 90% of the active treatment group showed improvement at some point (but only 40% sustained it), compared with 62% on placebo. Of the four in active treatment that sustained improvement, three had a maximum dose of 0.13–0.15 mg/kg/day, while those who regressed had doses ≥0.18 mg/kg/day. Graphed means suggested better outcome with lower mg/kg and longer medication duration. Four parents spontaneously reported reduced hyperactivity and irritability and better verbalization and continued mecamylamine at their own expense.
Mecamylamine appeared to be safe, but not very effective in autism. The suggestion of better results at lower doses and longer exposure warrants consideration for future trials. The next step would be exploration of a more specific α4β2 nAChR agonist, such as varenicline.
PMCID: PMC3417385  PMID: 22537359
21.  Neural systems for speech and song in autism 
Brain  2012;135(3):961-975.
Despite language disabilities in autism, music abilities are frequently preserved. Paradoxically, brain regions associated with these functions typically overlap, enabling investigation of neural organization supporting speech and song in autism. Neural systems sensitive to speech and song were compared in low-functioning autistic and age-matched control children using passive auditory stimulation during functional magnetic resonance and diffusion tensor imaging. Activation in left inferior frontal gyrus was reduced in autistic children relative to controls during speech stimulation, but was greater than controls during song stimulation. Functional connectivity for song relative to speech was also increased between left inferior frontal gyrus and superior temporal gyrus in autism, and large-scale connectivity showed increased frontal–posterior connections. Although fractional anisotropy of the left arcuate fasciculus was decreased in autistic children relative to controls, structural terminations of the arcuate fasciculus in inferior frontal gyrus were indistinguishable between autistic and control groups. Fractional anisotropy correlated with activity in left inferior frontal gyrus for both speech and song conditions. Together, these findings indicate that in autism, functional systems that process speech and song were more effectively engaged for song than for speech and projections of structural pathways associated with these functions were not distinguishable from controls.
PMCID: PMC3286324  PMID: 22298195
autism; functional MRI; DTI; language; music
22.  HFE Gene Polymorphisms and the Risk for Autism in Egyptian Children and Impact on the Effect of Oxidative Stress 
Disease markers  2011;31(5):289-294.
Background: Autism is among the commonest neurodevelopmental childhood disorders worldwide; its aetiology is still unknown. Iron metabolism alteration in the central nervous system is recently implicated as a risk factor for several neurodegenerative disorders.
Haemochromatosis HFE gene polymorphisms (p.H63D and p.C282Y) have shown significant association with several neurological diseases. Some evidences show altered iron related proteins in serum of autistic children. The aim of this work is to conduct a preliminary pilot study for the association of HFE polymorphisms and autism.
Methods: All cases were referred from the clinic of special needs, National Research Centre, Cairo. Clinical diagnosis was based on the criteria for autistic disorder as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR).
Whole genome DNA was extracted; p.H63D and p.C282Y genotyping was studied using specific sequence amplification followed by restriction enzyme digestion on a sample of autism patients (25 cases) and twenty controls.
Results: The p.H63D is more abundant than the C282Y among both autism and control samples. No significant association of p.H63D nor p.C282Y polymorphism and autism was revealed.
Conclusion: We here report on the first pilot study of the possible genetic association between autism and HFE gene polymorphisms among Egyptians. Although our results do not prove the role of HFE polymorphisms as risk factors for autism, yet this does not exclude the role of iron in this prevalent disorder. Further extended studies are recommended to include other iron metabolism genes.
PMCID: PMC3826890  PMID: 22048270
Neurodevelopmental disorders; Iron; haemochromatosis; genes; polymorphisms
23.  Dental caries experience, oral health status and treatment needs of dental patients with autism 
Journal of Applied Oral Science  2011;19(3):212-217.
Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder. The aims of this study were to investigate whether children with autism have higher caries prevalence, higher periodontal problems, or more treatment needs than children of a control group of non-autistic patients, and to provide baseline data to enable comparison and future planning of dental services to autistic children.
Material and Methods
61 patients with autism aged 6-16 years (45 males and 16 females) attending Dubai and Sharjah Autism Centers were selected for the study. The control group consisted of 61 non-autistic patients chosen from relatives or friends of autistic patients in an attempt to have matched age, sex and socioeconomic status. Each patient received a complete oral and periodontal examination, assessment of caries prevalence, and caries severity. Other conditions assessed were dental plaque, gingivitis, restorations and treatment needs. Chi-square and Fisher's exact test of significance were used to compare groups.
The autism group had a male-tofemale ratio of 2.8:1. Compared to controls, children with autism had significantly higher decayed, missing or filled teeth than unaffected patients and significantly needed more restorative dental treatment. The restorative index (RI) and Met Need Index (MNI) for the autistic children were 0.02 and 0.3, respectively. The majority of the autistic children either having poor 59.0% (36/61) or fair 37.8% (23/61) oral hygiene compared with healthy control subjects. Likewise, 97.0% (59/61) of the autistic children had gingivitis.
Children with autism exhibited a higher caries prevalence, poor oral hygiene and extensive unmet needs for dental treatment than non-autistic healthy control group. Thus oral health program that emphasizes prevention should be considered of particular importance for children and young people with autism.
PMCID: PMC4234331  PMID: 21625735
Autism; Autistic disorder; Dental caries; Dental care for disabled; Dental care for children; Oral health
24.  Increased serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies in autistic children: relation to the disease severity 
Autoimmunity to the central nervous system (CNS) may play a pathogenic role in a subgroup of patients with autism. This study aimed to investigate the frequency of serum anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies, as indicators of the presence of autoimmunity to CNS, in a group of autistic children. We are the first to measure the relationship between these antibodies and the degree of the severity of autism.
Serum anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were measured, by ELISA, in 54 autistic children, aged between 4 and 12 years, in comparison to 54 healthy-matched children. Autistic severity was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).
Autistic children had significantly higher serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies than healthy children (P < 0.001). The seropositivity of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies was found in 74% (40/54) of autistic children. Serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were significantly higher in autistic children with severe autism (63%) than those with mild to moderate autism (37%), P = 0.001. Moreover, serum anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies had significant positive correlations with CARS (P < 0.001).
Serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies were increased in many autistic children. Also, their levels had significant positive correlations with the degree of the severity of autism. Thus, autism may be, in part, one of the pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. Further wide-scale studies are warranted to shed light on the possible etiopathogenic role of anti-ganglioside M1 auto-antibodies in autism. The role of immunotherapy in autistic patients who have increased serum levels of anti-ganglioside M1 antibodies should also be studied.
PMCID: PMC3104945  PMID: 21513576
anti-ganglioside antibodies; autism; autoimmunity; Childhood Autism Rating Scale
25.  Altered Modular Organization of Structural Cortical Networks in Children with Autism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63131.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that characterized by deficits in social interaction, language skills, repetitive stereotyped behaviors and restricted interests. Although great heterogeneity exists, previous findings suggest that autism has atypical brain connectivity patterns and disrupted small-world network properties. However, the organizational alterations in the autistic brain network are still poorly understood. We explored possible organizational alterations of 49 autistic children and 51 typically developing controls, by investigating their brain network metrics that are constructed upon cortical thickness correlations. Three modules were identified in controls, including cortical regions associated with brain functions of executive strategic, spatial/auditory/visual, and self-reference/episodic memory. There are also three modules found in autistic children with similar patterns. Compared with controls, autism demonstrates significantly reduced gross network modularity, and a larger number of inter-module connections. However, the autistic brain network demonstrates increased intra- and inter-module connectivity in brain regions including middle frontal gyrus, inferior parietal gyrus, and cingulate, suggesting one underlying compensatory mechanism associated with brain functions of self-reference and episodic memory. Results also show that there is increased correlation strength between regions inside frontal lobe, as well as impaired correlation strength between frontotemporal and frontoparietal regions. This alteration of correlation strength may contribute to the organization alteration of network structures in autistic brains.
PMCID: PMC3651174  PMID: 23675456

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