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Hormone Linked To Autism May Provide New Test And Treatment

CALIFORNIA (CBS Local) -  A test and possible treatment for autism may be on the horizon after a new study finds a link between the disorder and one particular hormone in the human body.

The Details:

  • Scientists in California have found a link between one hormone and autism
  • Vasopressin is connected to social behavior in humans
  • Monkeys with poor social abilities had the same low levels of vasopressin as children with autism

Researchers at Stanford and the University of California, Davis have found that the hormone vasopressin is connected to social behavior and may be a key biomarker for detecting autism in children. "What we consider this to be at this point is a biomarker for low sociability," Dr. John Capitanio said in a press release.

The UC Davis professor of psychology added that his team studied the cerebrospinal fluid levels (CSF) in rhesus monkeys which had either low or high social abilities. The levels of vasopressin found in each monkey's CSF were found to be directly connected to the subject's social skills.

When compared to the CSF in 14 young boys with autism, the results showed clear similarities in humans. "The human CSF samples are liquid gold," Dr. Karen Parker said in a Stanford blog post. Parker added that the results are the first steps toward what could possible be a test for diagnosing autism at an early age.

"Since autism affects the brain, it's really hard to access the biology of the condition to know what might be altered," the Stanford associate professor of psychiatry explained. "Right now, the diagnosis is based on parents' reports of their children's symptoms, and on clinicians observing children in the clinic."

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, cautions that more testing on vasopressin levels must be done before scientists can say that the hormone is key to creating a autism vaccine.

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