Investigators at Nationwide Children’s have received a $40,000 grant from the Autism Interventional Research Network for Physical Health to examine gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Kent Williams, MD, is the grant’s lead principal investigator.
GI disorders are common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Recent data indicates that more than half of children with ASD are reported to have at least one GI complaint at time of enrollment to the Autism Treatment Network registry.
All of the GI conditions common in pediatrics are present in children with ASD. However, it is unclear if the causes for these disorders are the same in children with ASD as they are in children with typical development. Most GI symptoms in children with typical development are not caused by pathological or organic diseases, but are caused by functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs), such as functional abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
In the past five years, clinical studies have identified physiological variants in serotonin signaling pathway and variants in local intestinal immune function associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Alterations in serotonin signaling pathway and immune activity are both areas of interest for research into the potential causes for ASD and FGIDs.
Dr. Williams and his team hypothesize that physiological variations associated with irritable bowel syndrome occur in children with ASD who meet diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome. This grant will allow the team to gather pilot data to further design experiments to test this hypothesis.
The team will examine whether alterations of serotonergic handling mechanisms associated with FGIDs occur in children with ASD who meet criteria for diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. They will also examine whether alterations of immune/inflammatory mediators associated with FGIDs occur in children with ASD who meet criteria for diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. The goal is to help clarify functional causes of gastrointestinal symptoms in children with ASD.
The Autism Interventional Research Network for Physical Health is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The network’s purpose is to establish and maintain a network infrastructure from which to conduct research on evidence-based practices for interventions to improve the physical health.