OBJECTIVES: Ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) is a neurotrophin which could signal neuronal suffering and at the same time acts as a neuroprotective agent. In the present study we aimed to evaluate CNTF serum levels in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In fact, considering the role of CNTF as a neuronal damage signal and the role of neuroinflammation, excito-inhibitory imbalance and excitotoxicity in the pathogenesis of ASDs, a possible alteration of CNTF in ASDs could be hypothesised.
METHODS: We recruited 23 individuals with ASDs and intellectual disability (ID), 20 ID subjects and 26 typical adults. A complete medical and psychopathological characterisation of the participants was performed. CNTF serum levels were measured with ELISA.
RESULTS: CNTF serum levels were significantly higher in the ASD + ID group compared to ID (p < .001) or typically developed subjects (p < .001).
CONCLUSIONS: CNTF may be considered as a potential biomarker candidate for ASDs in the context of severe ID. Our results support the hypothesis of neurotrophic imbalance in ASDs.