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Neurotensin is increased in serum of young children with autistic disorder

Asimenia Angelidou13, Konstantinos Francis2, Magdalini Vasiadi13, Konstantinos-Dionysios Alysandratos13, Bodi Zhang14, Athanasios Theoharides5, Lefteris Lykouras2, Kyriaki Sideri3, Dimitrios Kalogeromitros3 and Theoharis C Theoharides13467*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery, Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

2 Second Department of Psychiatry, Attikon General Hospital, University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece

3 Allergy Clinical Research Center, Allergy Section, Attikon General Hospital, University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece

4 Department of Biochemistry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA

5 Institute of Social Health Insurance (IKA), Thessaloniki, Greece

6 Department of Internal Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA

7 Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2010, 7:48  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-7-48

Published: 23 August 2010

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of pervasive neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed in early childhood. They are associated with a set of "core symptoms" that include disabilities in social interaction skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as repetitive and stereotypic behaviors. There is no definite pathogenetic mechanism or diagnostic tests. Many children with ASD also have "allergic-like" symptoms, but test negative implying mast cell activation by non-allergic triggers. We measured by Milliplex arrays serum levels of 3 neuropeptides that could stimulate mast cells in children with autistic disorder (n = 19; 16 males and 3 females; mean age 3.0 ± 0.4 years) and healthy, unrelated controls (n = 16; 13 males and 3 females; mean age 3 ± 1.2 years). Only neurotensin (NT) was significantly increased from 60.5 ± 6.0 pg/ml in controls to 105.6 ± 12.4 pg/ml in autistic disorder (p = 0.004). There was no statistically significant difference in the serum levels of β-endorphin or substance P (SP). NT could stimulate immune cells, especially mast cells, and/or have direct effects on brain inflammation and ASD.