Science lends a helping hand to autistic children

The number of autistic children is growing. Scientists at the UWM want to help to fight the condition by developing a nutritional and medicinal formula from cow’s milk, but without casein.

Autism is a complex development and functional disorder of the central nervous system, whose characteristic features include a disturbed ability to communicate and to build interpersonal relations, reduced and stereotypical behaviour as well as difficulty in the integration of sensory impressions.

– Autistic children suffer from dysfunctions of the gastrointestinal tract (food allergies) and vitamin and micro- and macronutrients deficits. There are reasons to believe that an appropriate nutrition scheme can help to fight the disease. The findings of our studies have shown that elimination of milk proteins and cereal proteins improves a child’s health status. Our laboratory has been trying to develop a nutritional and medicinal formula from cow’s milk, which would be intended for autistic and allergic children. Such preparations are available on the American and European market, but they are not produced in Poland – says Prof. Elżbieta Kostyra, Head of Department of Medical Biochemistry at the Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology of the University of Warmia and Mazury. The team headed by Prof. Kostyra also includes: Dr hab. Beata Jarmołowska, Dr Stanisław Krawczuk, professor at UWM, Dr Edyta Sienkiewicz-Szłapka, Dr Anna Cieślińska and Dr Ewa Fiedorowicz. The team studies gene expression, genetic polymorphism and their relationship with diseases, including autism.

- We have been carrying out our research and diagnostic programme entitled “Science lends a helping hand to autistic children” for 3 years. We collaborate with the Provincial Specialist Hospital in Olsztyn – adds Prof. Kostyra.

The causes of autism have not been fully identified. A number of hypotheses have been suggested which describe the mechanism of disease development. According to one of them, autism in children in caused by genetic anomalies as well as pregnancy and delivery disorders. The number of autistic children is growing. It is already an epidemic in the USA – there are 200 autistic children per 10 thousand. The situation in Poland is also a cause for concern, especially in the province of Warmia and Mazury. Until recently, there were 2 autistic children per 10 thousand here, now there are 6.5 per 10 thousand.

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