Scientist have identified a link between exposure to high levels of oestrogen sex hormones in the womb and the likelihood of developing autism. The findings are published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The discovery adds further evidence to support the prenatal sex steroid theory of autism first proposed 20 years ago. In , a team of scientists at the University of Cambridge and the State Serum Institute in Denmark measured the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones, including two known as androgens, in the amniotic fluid in the womb and discovered that they were higher in male foetuses who later developed autism. These androgens are produced in higher quantities in male than in female foetuses on average, so might also explain why autism occurs more often in boys. They are also known to masculinise parts of the brain, and to have effects on the number of connections between brain cells.
How pregnancy may shape a child's autism | Spectrum | Autism Research News
By Emily Singer. The results provide a possible genetic mechanism for the sex bias of autism. Other recent research has identified a gene in the same region of the X chromosome that correlates with the severity of autism. Previous research suggests autism has a genetic basis, but so far, no single gene has been located that causes the disease in the general population. Autism is 10 times more prevalent among boys than girls, suggesting that a genetic factor may be sex-linked. The X chromosome carries many genes that are vital for a wide range of physiological functions.
When you do have one, things are even more complicated. As a woman with autism , there are a lot of cues that just fly over my head. Autism is a sensory disorder, so it comes as no surprise that most autistic people have to deal with sensory aversions. While I can go on about all of that for a really long time, one thing that really stands out when I talk about my experience as an autistic woman is sex.
It's more common in males, but it involves multiple genes and chromosomes. Researchers are still figuring out the genetics of autism and how it's inherited. It's not sex-linked the way traits like hemophilia or colorblindness are. While it is identified more in male than female research seems to indicate that it is an identification issue rather than attached to a gender issue.