Link between autism and abnormal blood-vessel function and oxidative stress

(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered that children with autism showed signs of abnormal blood-vessel function and damaging levels of oxidative stress compared to healthy children. The children with autism possessed levels of biochemicals that indicate the presence of constricted blood vessels via the endothelium (the cells that line vessels) with a higher tendency to form clots (through cells called platelets).

By exploring the relationship between oxidative stress and blood-vessel function in autistic patients, investigators hope to find new therapeutic options for this syndrome. The researchers, led by Domenico Pratico, MD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, published their findings in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology.

According to the Autism Society of America, the reported number of autism cases is increasing 10 to 17 percent per year in the United States. Autism, an early onset neurological disorder, is characterized by impaired social interactions, limited verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive and restricted behavioral patterns. Patients with autism can differ in the severity and scope of their symptoms, suggesting that multiple factors contribute to explaining the disorder's symptoms. Previous studies at other institutions have shown that autistic patients have reduced cerebral blood flow, presumably due to constricted blood vessels in the brain, versus healthy controls.

Urinary samples of autistic children who were similar in age and healthy controls were provided by the Pfeiffer Treatment Center (www.hriptc.org/), where patients were diagnosed with autism disorder and evaluated. Patients were excluded from analysis if they had ever received anti-oxidant treatments or medicine with any known anti-oxidant effect; if they suffered from chronic illnesses, such as depression, psychosis, or inflammatory disorders; and/or if they were sick at t

Contact: Karen Kreeger
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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