FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
Sensitivity to opioid peptides derived from food, including BCM-7 (from cows' milk) and gliadomorphin (from gluten grains) has long been suspected as playing a role in some symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and related developmental and mental health conditions, including ADHD and the schizophrenia spectrum, among others.
A major problem in both research and clinical practice is the huge individual variability within
any group defined by these purely descriptive labels, which are based entirely on observed or reported behaviour. For better targeting and development of effective methods of management (either medications or dietary interventions), useful biomarkers are therefore needed, but remain lacking.
In this study, researchers investigated the effects of beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7) - an opioid peptide derived from the digestion of standard cows' milk - on the expression of two genes known to be critical in determining the effects of BCM-7 at the individual level:
(1) the mu-opioid receptor (MOR) - activity of which determines sensitivity to the opioid effects of BCM-7.
(2) the gene for DPP-IV - an enzyme needed to break down, and so inactivate, BCM-7.
Differential effects of BCM-7 according to genotype were found for the expression of both of these genes (in children with ASD and also in controls).
The frequency of different gene variants was also reported, and although no clear associations were found between this and ASD status in this pilot study, the researchers emphasise the need for future research to take into account individual genetic variation.
And for more information on potential effects of BCM-7 (derived from A1, rather than A2 milk proteins), see: