Increased oestrogen sex hormones in the womb linked to autism

Scientist have identified a link between exposure to high levels of oestrogen sex hormones in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism.

In males and females, estrogen is a significant hormone. Elevated amounts of estrogen can cause an assortment of indications and may increase the risk of developing certain ailments. In females, estrogen plays a role in the menstrual cycle and reproductive system.

According to a new study by the University of Cambridge and the State Serum Institute in Denmark, scientists identified the association between exposure to high levels of estrogen sex hormones in the womb. The outcomes suggest that the increased estrogen sex hormones in the womb linked to autism.

Scientists during the study tested the amniotic fluid samples from the same 98 individuals sampled from the Danish Biobank, which has collected amniotic samples from over 100,000 pregnancies, but this time looking at another set of prenatal sex steroid hormones called estrogens. This is an important next step because some of the hormones previously studied are directly converted into estrogens.

Each of the four estrogens was primarily raised, on average, in the 98 embryos who later created autism, contrasted with the 177 fetuses who did not. Large amounts of pre-birth estrogens were considerably more cautious of the probability of autism than were high levels of pre-birth androgens, (for example, testosterone).

In spite of the mainstream belief that partners estrogens with feminization, pre-birth estrogens have consequences for brain development and furthermore masculinize the cerebrum in numerous mammals.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, who led this study and who first proposed the prenatal sex steroid theory of autism, said: “This new finding supports the idea that increased prenatal sex steroid hormones are one of the potential causes for the condition. Genetics is well established as another, and these hormones likely interact with genetic factors to affect the developing fetal brain.”

Alex Tsompanidis, a Ph.D. student in Cambridge who worked on the study, said: “These elevated hormones could be coming from the mother, the baby or the placenta. Our next step should be to study all these possible sources and how they interact during pregnancy.”

Dr. Alexa Pohl, part of the Cambridge team, said: “This finding is exciting because the role of estrogens in autism has hardly been studied, and we hope that we can learn more about how they contribute to fetal brain development in further experiments. We still need to see whether the same result holds true in autistic females.”

Although, scientists recommend that the study should be avoided for screening autism.

Professor Baron-Cohen said, “We are interested in understanding autism, not preventing it.”

Dr. Arieh Cohen, the biochemist on the team, based at the State Serum Institute in Copenhagen, said: “This is a terrific example of how a unique biobank set up 40 years ago is still reaping scientific fruit today in unimagined ways, through international collaboration.”

See stories of the future in your inbox every morning.