As reported in the following excerpt from a EurekaAlert news release, recent mice studies add to previous research indicating that maternal antibodies can trigger autism. Can anyone think of a word starting with the letter V that can trigger antibodies .... and therefore autism?
New studies in pregnant mice using antibodies against fetal brains made by the mothers of autistic children show that immune cells can cross the placenta and trigger neurobehavioral changes similar to autism in the mouse pups.
A report on the research from investigators at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center published online in the Journal of Neuroimmunology expands on a 2008 report from the same team showing that mothers of autistic children tested positive for fetal brain antibodies. Antibodies are proteins the body naturally makes to attack foreign tissues, viruses or bacteria. Because a growing fetus is not "rejected" by the mother's immune system even though some of its DNA is "foreign" (from the father), scientists have long suspected that some combination of maternal and fetal biological protection is at work.
The new research from Hopkins, however, suggests that the protective system is not perfect and that antibodies are not only made but are re-circulated back to the fetus through the placenta, possibly triggering inflammation in the brain and leading to a cascade of neurological changes resulting in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism.