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J Neuroinflammation. 2010 Aug 23;7:48. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-7-48.

Neurotensin is increased in serum of young children with autistic disorder.

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


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.

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