New research suggests it may be possible to identify children at risk for autism from day one. By looking at the placenta, researchers say they’ve found key markers that could be used to spot at-risk babies the day they are born. The development could be significant, potentially allowing for early intervention within the first year of life.
In the study published online Thursday in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers found that abnormal placental folds and abnormal cell growths called trophoblast inclusions are more common in babies with increased odds for autism.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and the University of California, Davis MIND Institute looked at 117 placentas from babies born to families with at least one child already diagnosed with autism. Such babies are considered to be at risk with previous research showing that parents who already have a child with autism are nine times more likely to have another with the developmental disorder.
The placentas were compared to those from 100 control-infants born to women with only typically-developing kids.
The study found that placentas from children in the at-risk group had as many as 15 trophoblast inclusions while babies in the control group had no more than two.
“I hope that diagnosing the risk of developing autism by examining the placenta at birth will become routine, and that the children who are shown to have increased numbers of trophoblast inclusions will have early interventions and an improved quality of life as a result of this test,” said Harvey Kliman, a research scientist at the Yale School of Medicine and a senior author of the study.
The researchers plan to continue to track the children involved in the study to find out whether or not they are ultimately diagnosed with autism.