Autism Might Be Connected to Faulty Prenatal Brain Growth

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Our Saturday green news brings you the latest on health, parenting and cool baby and kid products:

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Photo courtesy of John A. Rogers

  • Autism might be connected to faulty prenatal brain growth: According to a recent study published in New England Journal of Medicine there is new evidence that something before birth might cause autism, at least in some cases. Researchers examined brains from autistic children who died and found abnormal patterns of cell growth. The abnormalities detected with sophisticated lab tests were found in 10 of 11 children with autism, but in only one of 11 children without the disease. As the lead author Eric Courchesne, an autism researcher at the University of California, San Diego explained, these defects most likely occurred during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy. “Because this points to the biological onset in prenatal life, it calls sharply into question other popular notions about autism, including the scientifically debunked theory that childhood vaccines might be involved.” Other autism experts called these results preliminary and emphasized that larger studies are needed to determine if the unusual brain development found in this study causes the problems, and if it’s truly common in autism or even in people without the disorder. Mr. Courchesne admitted that what causes the unusual structure isn’t known so far: “It could be gene mutations and environmental factors together.”
  • Latest findings about saturated fat and heart disease: Results of an international research collaboration led by researchers from Cambridge University, London and recently published in journal Annals of Internal Medicine indicate that there is no proven link between saturated fats and increased risk of heart disease. The research involved more than 600,000 people from across 18 countries, and scientists carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of total of 72 studies (45 cohort and 27 randomized control studies) to obtain an actual analysis about saturated fat and heart disease. The final data analysis does not support previous claims that saturated fat can be linked to heart disease, but neither that so called “good fats” (polyunsaturated fats) can protect the heart. What the findings did support is that trans fatty acid intake is associated with a significant increase in coronary heart disease risk. Other studies have found an association between saturated fat and heart disease, and that’s why experts advice small intake of saturated fat, just in case.
  • New wearable device to monitor human health 24/7: Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have developed a new wearable device that can monitor human health around the clock. They recently published their new design in the journal Science. This device is essentially a soft stick-on patch that can stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring. The patch can be used for everyday health tracking — wirelessly sending updates to a personal cellphone or computer — and could revolutionize clinical monitoring such as EKG and EEG testing. As the authors Yonggang Huang and John A. Rogers explained: “We designed this device to monitor human health 24/7, but without interfering with a person’s daily activity. It’s as soft as human skin and can move with your body, but at the same time it has many different monitoring functions. What is very important about this device is it’s powered wirelessly and can send high-quality data about the human body to a computer, in real time.”
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