New studies conducted by John Hopkins Children’s center show that immune cells can cross the placenta and trigger neurobehavioral changes similar to autism in the mice. The report was published online in the Journal of Neuroimmunology and expands on a similar report published in 2008 by the same team.This new research suggests that immune cells, or antibodies, are not only made but re-circulated back to the fetus through the placenta, possibly triggering inflammation in the brain. This can lead to successive neurological changes resulting in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism. Of course it is important to note that the scientists are emphasizing that these are only one of several factors believed to contribute to autism spectrum disorders.
“Autism is a complex disorder and it would be naïve to assume there’s a single mechanism that can cause it,” says Harvey Singer, M.D., director of pediatric neurology at Hopkins Children’s. “It’s most likely the cumulative result of several factors, including genes, metabolism and environment. We believe we have identified one of these factors.”
He also added, “Comparing mice to humans is tricky, and we should be cautious anytime we do so, but our findings strongly suggest that the behaviors we observed in the offspring of mice injected with fetal brain antibodies from human mothers did behave in a manner that mimics some behaviors seen in people with autism,” Singer says.
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