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Genetic variant and autoantibodies linked to having a child with autism
Date:10/19/2011

A study by researchers at UC Davis has found that pregnant women with a particular gene variation are more likely to produce autoantibodies to the brains of their developing fetuses and that the children of these mothers are at greater risk of later being diagnosed with autism.

The finding is the first to demonstrate a genetic mechanism at play in the development of the neurodevelopmental disorder among some children -- offering the possibility of a genetic test for some women at risk for having a child with autism, said Judy Van de Water, an immunologist and the study's co-principal investigator.

"Association of a MET genetic variant with autism-associated maternal autoantibodies to fetal brain proteins and cytokine expression," is published online today in the journal Translational Psychiatry, a Nature publication.

"Our study gives strong support for the idea that, in at least some cases, autism results from maternal immunity gone overboard," said Judy Van de Water, a professor of internal medicine and a researcher affiliated with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "This is the first time that a genetic factor known to be important in autism and its effects have been demonstrated."

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a child's ability to learn and communicate socially. It affects an estimated 1 in 110 children in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, Van de Water and her colleagues examined the action of the MET gene, which has a known association with autism, among 200 mothers of children with autism and 150 mothers of typically developing children enrolled in the Northern California-based Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study. All of the study participants were between 24 and 60 months of age at the time of study enrollment, lived with one biological parent, and spoke either English or Spanish
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Contact: Phyllis Brown
phyllis.brown@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9023
University of California - Davis Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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