Estrogen, Mistakenly Believed A Female-Only Hormone, May Explain Why Autism Rates Are Higher In Boys

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Nelson Vergel

While autism disorders appear to have a genetic basis, research suggests autism may also be linked to sex hormones. For instance, a recent European study found babies who later develop autism had been exposed to higher levels of testosterone while in the womb. This finding led scientists to question whether there might be a relationship between the disorder and estrogen, which is often mistakenly thought of as a female hormone but is also produced in males.
To understand whether estrogen might be linked to the higher rate of ASD in boys, a group of researchers from Georgia Regents University examined brain tissue samples from 13 deceased people who had ASDs and compared them to samples from 13 controls. In particular, the research team measured the expression of proteins involved in the estrogen signaling pathway: ERβ, an estrogen receptor molecule, and aromatase, an enzyme which converts testosterone to estradiol.
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