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Some cases of autism may be traced to the immune system of mothers during pregnancy
Date:2/11/2008

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) New research from the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and Center for Childrens Environmental Health has found that antibodies in the blood of mothers of children with autism bind to fetal brain cells, potentially interrupting healthy brain development. The study authors also found that the reaction was most common in mothers of children with the regressive form of autism, which occurs when a period of typical development is followed by loss of social and/or language skills. The findings, to be published in the March 2008 issue of Neurotoxicology, raise the possibility that the transfer of maternal antibodies during pregnancy is a risk factor for autism and, at some point, that a prenatal test and treatment could prevent the disorder for some children.

While a growing body of research is dedicated to finding distinctions in the immune systems of children with autism, this is one of the first studies to identify immunological factors in mothers that could be linked to autism in the very earliest stages of life, said Judy Van de Water, senior author of the study and professor of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology. Our results should lead to more research on the prenatal environment and the onset of autism. We are also optimistic that in the future a prenatal test and therapeutic intervention preventing IgG exposure during pregnancy could protect some children from ever getting autism.

Van de Water and her team began their research with blood samples from 123 mothers 61 whose children have autism and 62 whose children are typically developing. They isolated IgG antibodies from the samples then exposed the antibody to fetal brain tissue by western blot analysis, which detects antibody reactivity to proteins. The outcome revealed a highly specific reactivity pattern to two fetal brain proteins in seven of the 61 samples from the autism group, six of which were from mothers of children who had regressive autism. Non
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Contact: Karen Finney
karen.finney@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9064
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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