April 2nd, 2010
08:48 AM ET
By Madison Park
April 2 is U.N.-declared World Autism Awareness Day. A life touched by autism is one forever in search of new information, and answers to the questions "Why did this happen?" and "How can I help my child?" Here's a brief wrap of some of the latest headlines about the mysterious neurological disorder, which affects as many as 1 in 110 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In March, a federal court ruled that the evidence supporting an alleged link between autism and a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines was not persuasive, and that the families of children who have autism were not entitled to compensation. Vaccine court finds no link to autism
In February, a notorious study that linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism and digestive disorders, was retracted 12 years after it was published. Its lead author Dr. Andrew Wakefield was found to have acted unethically in conducting the research by the British entity that oversees doctors. Medical journal retracts study linking autism to vaccine
As research indicates that the rates of autism are increasing and that about 1 percent of the children in the United States have the disorder, there is an increasing body of science looking into causes and contributing factors to the mysterious condition.
Here are some major findings according to Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy and education organization.
1) Two major studies using different methodologies reached similar conclusions: autism is on the rise. Four years earlier, autism spectrum disorder was found to affect 1 out of 150 children, but more recent data suggest it's closer to 1 in 91 or 1 in 110 children, depending on the study. Research also found that autism is four times more common in boys than girls.
2) Delivering early intervention programs for children with autism improved IQ, language skills and adaptive behavior even for those as young as 18 months.
3) An autism genome study found a genetic variation associated with the genes cadherin 10 and 9, which are responsible for forming nerve connections. This suggests abnormal interactions between neurons may cause the deficits seen in autism.
4) Researchers analyzed submicroscopic DNA deletions or duplications called copy number variants in the autism genome and found a new cellular pathway called "ubiquitin pathway," in the pathology of autism.
5) A study demonstrated that combining drug and behavioral treatments were more effective than drug treatment alone for reducing challenging behaviors.
For the complete list and expanded explanation, visit Top 10 Autism Research Achievements
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