Biomarkers can help distinguish different types of features but this week they were used to predict who would respond to Pivotal Response Training, or PRT. Researchers, led by Pam Ventral at Yale looked at how the brain responded to a social or non social situation as well as baseline features on standardized measures. Remarkably, these brain signatures were better at standard behavioral assessments at determining who would respond most positively to PRT. This study has enormous implications for personalized medicine approach and demonstrates how early studies in biomarkers many years ago have paid off for those with autism.
On Tuesday November 15th, Tracy Bale from University of Pennsylvania provided an insightful analysis of sex differences in behavioral, physiological and molecular outcomes following prenatal stress. She outlined the potential epigenetic markers that may lead to resilience in female offspring which has direct implications for autism. However, prior to Dr. Bale’s presentation, Donna Werling from UCSF briefly outlined the genetic and behavioral data so far about females with autism and why there is a 4:1 ratio in males to females getting a diagnosis. This webinar is part of the Environmental Epigenetics of Autism Webinar Series co-organized by Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Escher Family Fund for Autism.
On early Wednesday morning, the United States woke up to the news that the new president was Donald Trump. While he hasn’t taken office yet, this podcast reviews his statement on his website or in his Contract with America, as well as thing published or stated by him or his campaign on his website or in an interview. The following are covered: health coverage, Medicaid, mental health services, science and the environment, and education. The focus is now the proposed changes and policies could affect families with autism. There is also a special message at the end from David Mandell about how families can deal with the changes ahead. A transcript of the podcast is available here.
Overall, the scientific research examining the efficacy of oxytocin treatment in autism spectrum disorder has been mixed. On a previous podcast, studies in the way the oxytocin receptor was turned on and off were explained which may account for variability in treatment response. This week, two studies in Japan show that specific mutations in the oxytocin receptor product predict who will respond to oxytocin treatment and who will not. Therefore, the oxytocin story is one of the first examples of using genetic findings to push better treatment on an individual level, otherwise known as precision medicine.