The causes of autism, a disorder manifesting itself with a range of brain problems and marked by impaired social interactions, communication disorders and repetitive behaviors, remain unknown for an estimated 90 percent of children diagnosed with it. Genetic, metabolic and environmental factors have been implicated in various studies of autism, a disorder affecting 1 in 150 U.S. children, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Now our research suggests that the mother’s immune system may be yet another factor or a trigger in those already predisposed,” says lead investigator Harvey Singer, M.D., director of pediatric neurology at Hopkins Children’s.
Researchers caution that the findings needn’t be cause for alarm, but should be viewed instead as a step forward in untangling the complex nature of autism.
Mostly anecdotal past evidence of immune system involvement has emerged from unusual antibody levels in some autistic children and from postmortem brain tissue studies showing immune abnormalities in areas of the brain. Antibodies are proteins the body makes in response to viruses and bacteria or sometimes mistakenly against its own tissues. Yet, the majority of children with autism have no clinical evidence of autoimmune diseases, which prompted researchers to wonder whether the antibodies transferred from mother to child during pregnancy could interfere with the fetal brain directly.
To test their hypothesis, the research team used a technique called immunoblotting (or Western blot technology), in which antibodies derived from blood samples are exposed to adult and fetal brain tissue to check whether the antibodies recognize and react against specific brain proteins.
Comparing the antibody-brain interaction in samples obtained from 100 mothers of autistic children and 100 mothers of children without autism, researchers found either stronger reactivity or more areas of reactivity between antibodies and brain proteins in about 40 percent of the samples obtained from the mothers of autistic children. Further, the presence of maternal antibodies was associated with so-called developmental regression in children, increasingly immature behaviors that are a hallmark of autism.
While the findings suggest an association between autism and the presence of fetal brain antibodies, the investigators say further studies are needed to confirm that particular antibodies do indeed cross the placenta and cause damage to the fetal brain.
“The mere fact that a pregnant woman has antibodies against the fetal brain doesn’t mean she will have an autistic child,” Singer says. “Autism is a complex condition and one that is likely caused by the interplay of immune, genetic and environmental factors.”
Researchers are also studying the effect of maternal antibodies in pregnant mice. Preliminary results show that the offspring of mice injected with brain antibodies exhibit developmental and social behaviors consistent with autism.
Ekaterina Pesheva | EurekAlert!
3D images of cancer cells in the body: Medical physicists from Halle present new method
16.05.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Better equipped in the fight against lung cancer
16.05.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News