U.S. researchers claim that autism begins in the womb
Autism is a developmental disability that remains with a person for his or her whole life. This condition affects the brain's functions. The first signs usually appear before a child is three years old.
However, American scientists claim that autism could begin early in pregnancy, when the child is still in the womb. Their findings indicate that the early development of the brain’s cortex - the outermost layered structure of neural tissue - is disrupted in children with autism.
Researchers at the University of California analysed 25 genes in the brain tissue of dead children, as we read in Daily Mail. Some of these had autism, and others did not. They examined genes that serve as biomarkers for brain cell types in different layers of the cortex, genes implicated in autism and several control genes.
“Building a baby’s brain during pregnancy involves creating a cortex that contains six layers. We discovered focal patches of disrupted development of these cortical layers in the majority of children with autism”, says Dr. Eric Courchesne, professor of neurosciences and director of the Autism Center of Excellence at UC San Diego.
During early brain development, each cortical layer develops its own specific types of brain cells, each with specific patterns of brain connectivity that perform unique roles in processing information. As a brain cell develops into a specific type in a specific layer with specific connections, it acquires a distinct genetic signature or ‘marker’ that can be observed.
This defect, according to Dr. Courchesne, indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells – something that begins in prenatal life – had been disrupted.
The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.