Autism and plasma leptin levels


Leptin plasma levels seem to be elevated in some cases of autism

According to new research from David Rodrigues and colleagues from the Institute of Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, adipokine leptin plasma levels seem to be elevated in some cases of autism. Based on an analysis of levels of various adipokines, the cell signaling molecules secreted by body fat, in a small participant group diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, elevated levels of plasma leptin compared to controls were reported by researchers.

Leptin is important because it is involved in regulating dietary intake, body weight, and other various processes. A complex series of biological checks and balances mean that reduction in body fat leads to decreasing levels of leptin which in turn leads to the stimulation of appetite. The connection is also being observed in reverse where higher levels of body fat are linked to a blocking of appetite through elevations in leptin. The idea of leptin resistance is also gaining recognition as it is being reported in cases of obesity, were similar to the effects of type 2 diabetes on insulin, typical homeostasis is not observed.

Leptin, as a cytokine, has also been the basis of some investigative research, particularly regarding inflammation. It’s similarity to other, more pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), has led to conjecture about it’s role in changing the delicate immune system balance between pro- and anti-inflammation.

In regard to how the immune system functions, researchers suggest a possible answer from elevations in leptin as noted in their group of people with autism. Other similar investigations support this idea and further work is required to confirm effects and whether it plays an direct or indirect role in the pathology of autism.

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