Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sex differences, genes and autism

Men are more likely to suffer from autism than women and men with autism have more testosterone than men without the condition. Researchers at Washington State University have been looking into the influence of male and female sex hormones on a gene called RORA. The gene affects the development of the cerebellum and many other processes that are important in autism and also regulates the production of a protein called aromatase - levels of which are reduced in the brains of people with autism. The researchers found that a decrease in aromatase leads to a build up in testosterone which in turn decreases the levels of RORA and further reduces aromatase. Female sex hormones were found to increase the levels of RORA in brain cells which in turn increases levels of aromatase. The researchers think that the effects of these hormones on the RORA gene could be responsible for some of the differences between the sexes in the prevalence of autism.

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