A small new study has once again found a link between elevated hormone levels in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism. But this time, instead of major androgens such as testosterone, researchers are pointing the finger at estrogen, medicalxpress and sciencealert report. Image.
Elevated latent prenatal steroidogenic activity has been found in the amniotic fluid of autistic boys, based on measuring prenatal androgens and other steroid hormones. To date, it is unclear if other prenatal steroids also contribute to autism likelihood. Prenatal oestrogens need to be investigated, as they play a key role in synaptogenesis and corticogenesis during prenatal development, in both males and females. Here we test whether levels of prenatal oestriol, oestradiol, oestrone and oestrone sulphate in amniotic fluid are associated with autism, in the same Danish Historic Birth Cohort, in which prenatal androgens were measured, using univariate logistic regression (n = 98 cases, n = 177 controls). We also make a like-to-like comparison between the prenatal oestrogens and androgens. Oestradiol, oestrone, oestriol and progesterone each related to autism in univariate analyses after correction with false discovery rate. A comparison of standardised odds ratios showed that oestradiol, oestrone and progesterone had the largest effects on autism likelihood. These results for the first time show that prenatal oestrogens contribute to autism likelihood, extending the finding of elevated prenatal steroidogenic activity in autism. This likely affects sexual differentiation, brain development and function.
“In conclusion, we have demonstrated that prenatal oestradiol, oestriol and oestrone are elevated in in boys who went on to develop autism. This extends our previous finding of elevated prenatal steroidogenesis in the same cohort and provides further evidence for the prenatal steroid theory of autism. High levels of prenatal oestradiol contribute to a greater degree to autism likelihood than other prenatal sex steroids, including testosterone. We conclude that prenatal oestrogenic excess is a characteristic of autism and may interact with genetic predisposition to affect neurodevelopment.”
See studies in ref to DES and autism, ADHD, Down’s syndrome.