Low levels of oestrogen may be responsible for an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders among boys, Molecular Autism reports.

Researchers from the University of Georgia Regents (USA) have shown that autistic individuals are characterised by reduced expression of the oestrogen receptor beta and reduced levels of aromatase. This results in increased testosterone levels in the body and may explain why boys develop autism spectrum disorders five times more often than girls.

An earlier study at Cambridge University (W. UK) had already shown that high levels of testosterone (male sex hormone) in the uterus of a pregnant mother correlates with her son’s abnormal social functioning at the age of four.

Now the researchers have decided to see if oestrogen – the female sex hormone – is also involved in the development of autism.

“The testosterone hypothesis is already in circulation, but no one has investigated whether it has anything to do with the presence of the female hormone in the brain,” – says Dr Anilkumar Pillai, co-author of the study.

To do this, the researchers looked at the structure of the brain tissue of the prefrontal cortex in 13 people diagnosed with autism and 13 healthy individuals.

They found that those with autistic disorders had a 35 per cent reduced expression of the oestrogen receptor beta, which plays an important role in brain protection and processes related to movement, behaviour, memory and learning.

The brains of the autistic patients also showed a 38 per cent reduction in aromatase, the hormone that allows testosterone to be converted into oestradiol (a hormone included in the oestrogen group).

The researchers are already preparing to conduct experiments to manipulate the expression level of the oestrogen receptor beta in mice. They want to learn more about how this mechanism works and assess whether it can be used to treat autism.


  • https://www.medonet.pl/psyche/zaburzenia-psychiczne,chlopcy-czesciej-cierpia-na-autyzm-z-powodu-estrogenu,artykul,1705289.html