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Study Shows Link to Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Children With Autism



MELBOURNE, Fla., Jan. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry by Dr. Daniel Rossignol (International Child Development Resource Center, Melbourne FL, Aid for Autism) and Dr. Richard Frye (University of Texas), children with autism are more likely to have abnormal function of a key part of the cell called the mitochondria (  Mitochondria are best known for producing energy for the cell from oxygen and food.  Because of its role in energy production, children with mitochondrial disease are known to have dysfunction in high energy organs, such as the brain.  The investigators found that 1 out of 20 children with autism have been found to have severe mitochondrial disease, compared to approximately 1 out of 10,000 individuals in the general population.  In addition, the study points out that a much wider number of children with autism, possibly one-third of children with autism, might have milder mitochondrial dysfunction.

Other intriguing findings of this review included that children with autism who also have mitochondrial problems are more likely to develop relatively normally early in life and then lose previously acquired skills, and to have other medical disorders such as seizures and gastrointestinal abnormalities.  The review also identified the wide array of blood markers that have been used to identify children with autism and mitochondrial dysfunction.  These blood markers may help physicians identify mitochondrial dysfunction in children with autism.  

The review also found that only 19% of children with autism and mitochondrial dysfunction had an identifiable genetic abnormality that could account for the dysfunction.  This finding suggests that other factors, such as toxins found in the environment and other stressors, contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction in children with autism.

"Because mitochondria are central to so many cellular processes, abnormalities in many different physiological processes such as inflammation and/or oxidative stress, genetic abnormalities and exposures to toxins can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction.  This suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction could be the final common disease pathway that results in brain dysfunction as a consequence of many divergent causes.  This can explain how the various different physiological and genetic abnormalities and toxic exposures, which have all been linked to autism, could result in the same disease," said Dr. Frye.

SOURCE Aid for Autism

CONTACT: Sunny Hill, Media Relations of Aid for Autism, +1-949-413-3429,

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Posted: January 2011