Foetal oestrogens and autism

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

This study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, support the idea that increased prenatal sex steroid hormones are one of the potential causes of autism. It follows on from a first study in 2015, in which these same scientists measured foetal androgen levels and found that they were higher in male foetuses who would later develop autism. From these results, they tested the amniotic fluid of the same individuals, but this time focusing on oestrogen levels, with the same results: high levels of foetal oestrogens are linked to a high probability of developing autism.

The authors’ conclusion is: “We conclude that prenatal oestrogenic excess is a characteristic of autism and may interact with genetic predisposition to affect neurodevelopment.”

This study shows again that autism seems to be a pathology present before birth. This result goes along with our last paper, which showed an increase in fetal brain volume during birth in autism. It is therefore by studying this period that we can understand the causes of this pathology.

Source : Baron-Cohen, Simon, et al. “Foetal oestrogens and autism.” Molecular psychiatry (2019): 1.

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