Jun 15, 2013 09:51 AM EDT By Vishakha Sonawane
A latest study states that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that are neurodevelopmental in origin, might have some similar molecular vulnerabilities.
Researchers at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Ill., conducted a test on pregnant rats and exposed them to alcohol. They later found that the baby rats showed signs of social impairment and had evidence of altered genes, which showed links to autism in human beings.
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"The novel finding here is that these two disorders share molecular vulnerabilities, and if we understand those, we are closer to finding treatments," Eva Redei, the senior author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release.
The researchers also gave low doses of thyroid hormone thyroxin to these pregnant alcohol-exposed rats and found that the alcohol damage was reduced and reversed the expression of autism-related genes in the baby rats.
Dr Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com said that they hoped the findings will make researchers explore the potential for thyroxin to be utilized in patients who are at risk for having an autistic child.
"We're still poor at identifying patients at risk for autism, but now we now there is family history, sibling history and some genetic deletions strongly associated with autism," Alvarez said. "One could argue that perhaps in patients at risk for having an autistic child, after more human studies, the prophylactic use of thyroxin can help prevent the neural behavioral changes of autism."