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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1990;600:331-40; discussion 341-2.

The hyperserotonemia of autism.

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Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510.


The planned and ongoing studies of platelet function and composition should allow us to better define the alteration which we presume to be present in platelets of autistic subjects. Although much of the research focuses on serotonergic aspects, the more general research should permit a better delineation of the extent of the alteration and will protect against a premature narrowing of the inquiry. The methodological development which has been a necessary aspect of the work should contribute to an improved understanding of platelet function and composition, as well as result in improved clinical tools for the assessment of platelet functioning in neuropsychiatric disorders and hematology. As an example, improvements in short-term in vitro storage conditions to stabilize aggregation and shape change responses over time were found to be necessary, and are probably critical to an optimal comparison of these phenomena across groups. The identification of the platelet alteration which is responsible for the hyperserotonemia of autism should prove useful in several ways. It would be expected that assessment of the altered function would provide a marker with less overlap with the normal population than the multidetermined measure of blood 5-HT. Determination of the specific protein(s) involved in the altered platelet should lead directly to gene probes and chromosomal location. These, in turn, should prove useful for neonatal screening, subtyping, and more powerful genetic and family studies. Work of this sort might also allow early intervention and improved treatment. Finally, characterization of the physiological alteration would provide a basis for focusing studies of brain neurochemistry and should, as well, suggest modes of neuropharmacological intervention. The confidence that one can have in the basic finding of hyperserotonemia in autism and the potential benefits to be derived from its explication make further research in this area of great interest.

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