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Biomark Insights. 2009 Nov 27;4:181-90.

Decreased Serum Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) in Autistic Children with Severe Gastrointestinal Disease.

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Research Director, Health Research Institute/Pfeiffer Treatment Center, 4575 Weaver Parkway, Warrenville, Illinois 60555, USA.



To assess serum Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF) levels in autistic children with severe gastrointestinal (GI) disease and to test the hypothesis that there is a relationship between GI pathology and HGF concentration.


Serum from 29 autistic children with chronic digestive disease (symptoms for a minimum of 6-12 months), most with ileo-colonic lymphoid nodular hyperplasia (LNH-markedly enlarged lymphoid nodules) and inflammation of the colorectum, small bowel and/or stomach), and 31 controls (11 age matched autistic children with no GI disease, 11 age matched non autistic children without GI disease and 9 age matched non autistic children with GI disease) were tested for HGF using ELISAs. HGF concentration of autistic children with GI disease was compared to GI disease severity.


Autistic children with GI disease had significantly lower serum levels of HGF compared to controls (autistic without GI disease; p = 0.0005, non autistic with no GI disease; p = 0.0001, and non autistic with GI disease; p = 0.001). Collectively, all autistic children had significantly lower HGF levels when compared to non autistic children (p < 0.0001). We did not find any relationship between severity of GI disease and HGF concentration in autistic children with GI disease.


These results suggest an association between HGF serum levels and the presence of GI disease in autistic children and explain a potential functional connection between the Met gene and autism. The concentration of serum HGF may be a useful biomarker for autistic children, especially those with severe GI disease.


GI disease; autism; hepatocyte growth factor; met gene

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