Blood Vessel Composition May Play a Role in Autism

2732-autism-4A team of researchers have discovered that the composition of one’s blood vessels may be linked to the development of autism disorders. The study provides new evidence to support the idea that autism may be factored by more than just neurological composition. This allows affected individuals to potentially receive different therapies that can assist in their development.

Efrain Azmitia, professor at NYU and senior author of the study states, “Our findings show that those afflicted with autism have unstable blood vessels, disrupting proper delivery of blood to the brain.” She continues, “In a typical brain, blood vessels are stable, thereby ensuring a stable distribution of blood. Whereas in the autism brain, the cellular structure of blood vessels continually fluctuates, which results in circulation this is fluctuating and, ultimately, neurologically limiting.”

This study, appearing in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, examined human postmortem brain tissue. They focused on both neurotypical individuals, as well as a group that received a diagnosis of autism. Prior to the microscopic analysis, the researchers were completely unaware of which individual they were studying, not knowing if the tissue came from an autistic brain.

The researchers discovered that there was a significant creation of new blood vessels in the autistic brain tissue, but not in the tissue of neurotypical individuals. This creation, called angiogenesis, causes blood vessels to form repeatedly in constant flux, creating instability in the blood’s delivery. Maura Boldrini, research scientist at Columbia University states, “We found that angiogenesis is correlated with more neurogenesis in other brain diseases, therefore there is the possibility that a change in brain vasculature in autism means a change in cell proliferation or maturation, or survival, and brain plasticity in general. These changes could potentially affect brain networks.”

Senior author Azmitia sums up, “It’s clear that there are changes in brain vascularization in autistic individuals from two to 20 years that are not seen in normally developing individuals past the age of two years. Now that we know this, we have new ways of looking at this disorder and, hopefully with this new knowledge, novel and more effective ways to address it.”

Written By Erica Polis

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