Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Immune System In Autism

23.07.2004


Autism suffers present a widespread range of antibodies against brain tissue and one protein in particular seems to be the major target of these antibodies claim a group of scientists in the July issue of the Journal of Neuroimmunology. The researchers also show that these antibodies are not genetically determined, as parents of affected individuals do not exhibit them, and so are probably not involved in disease appearance.

Immune abnormalities, including antibodies against the central nervous system, have previously been associated with autism but this is the first study that unequivocally proves such a correlation as earlier findings relied on analyses of a small number of individuals and did not contain appropriate controls.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental syndrome that appears in the first three years of life and affects more boys than girls at a ratio of 3-4:1. The disorder is characterized by socially detached behaviour together with impairment of language and social interaction. Patients tend to have extreme difficulty in learning through experience and consequently adapting their behaviour to respond to life’s changes. The social world and its unpredictability is particularly problematic and can create extreme anxieties exacerbating the disease. Life outcomes range from complete dependence to independent life depending on the intensity of the symptoms and how these were treated from early life.



Autism has various environmental (non-genetic) and genetic influences but the main causes seem to be multiple interacting genetic factors. Environmental factors such as toxic exposures, problems and infections before and after the birth such as rubella and cytomegalovirus seem to account for few cases. Connection to the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, although much talked about, has not been confirmed.

Nevertheless, autism numbers in industrialized societies have increased substantially in the last few years. In the United States, for example, while the disease was relatively rare in the 1990s, recorded numbers have tripled in the last 10 years. In California from 1987 to 1998 the number of children treated for autism has increased by 273%. Although part of this increase might result from better diagnostic tools and increased parental awareness, nevertheless, such an increase within only a decade, seem too extreme to be only attributed to these reasons.

Immune abnormalities together with neurobehavioural symptoms and changes in neurotransmitters are the more solid findings of autism. Understanding the role of each of these components is crucial to one day be able to treat the disorder. But until now the reports on altered immunity although frequent, were never conclusive as experimental conditions tended to be less than perfect.

Susana C. Silva, Catarina Correia and Astrid M. Vicente at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal and colleagues studied the blood of a large sample of individuals - 171 patients, 191 parents and 54 healthy controls - and report that autistic patients are in fact characterised by presenting in their blood high levels of non-inherited antibodies against the body’s own brain tissue. Interestingly, they also found that one protein seem to be the main object of the immune attack. The team of scientists isolated and characterised this protein although so far they have not been able to identify it.

These are interesting results that should lead to a better understanding of the disorder. Autism, as mentioned before, is heterogeneous in origin and extremely complex. To improve treatment and prevention it is necessary to recognize, from all the known components of the syndrome, what contributes to the development and symptoms of the disorder and what is consequence of it. What Correia, Vicente and colleagues’ results show is that although an immune dysfunction (auto-antibodies against the brain) does exist in autistic patients, because this is not a hereditary characteristic, it is probably just a secondary or parallel event that appears after and as result of autism and is not the primary cause of the disorder. A hypothesis raised by the authors is that these antibodies are the result of previous neurodevelopmental damage, which we know tend to occur in autism, and so do not participate directly in the disorder. The identification of the protein to which most of these autoreactive antibodies seem to react will help to confirm (or not) this hypothesis, further elucidating the mechanism behind autism and this is Silva, Correia, Vicente and colleagues’ next project.

For further information please contact:

Catarina Amorim
catarina.amorim@linacre.ox.ac.uk

Astrid M. Vicente
avicente@igc.gulbenkian.pt

Catarina Amorim | alfa
Further information:
http://www.oct.mct.pt

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

When a fish becomes fluid

17.12.2018 | Studies and Analyses

Progress in Super-Resolution Microscopy

17.12.2018 | Life Sciences

How electric heating could save CO2 emissions

17.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>