Infection Protection Can Increase ASD Chance

When it comes to disease and infections, we count on our body to fight off sickness.

What if the fighting off of foreign dangerous chemicals could result in a change of your future child’s brain structure? New studies have surfaced showing evidence that the immune cells reacting to viral infections in pregnant women can increase the chance of their offspring having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The study was put together by researchers from multiple organizations: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, University of Colorado, and the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Using pregnant mice as models, the immune cells, called helper T cells, are the mechanisms that can trigger ASD symptoms including repetitive behavior, social issues, and abnormal communication. T lymphocytes expand in response to infections, creating a group to combat the sickness. The activation of these cells, as well as the IL-17a proteins they produce, resulted in the mice children to have ASD-like behavior.

Another important result that the researchers concluded from the mouse model was that preventing the actions of Th17 cells and IL-17 during pregnancy using antibodies can still end with normal brain structure.

One of the study’s authors, and immunologist, was Dan Littman, MD, PhD, the Helen L. and Martin S Kimmel Professor of Molecular Immunology in the . He said that this study is the first of its kind, focusing on the immune cells of Th19 cells and their effects on offspring.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to identify a specific population of immune cells that may have a direct role in causing behaviors linked to autism.” Littman said. “With these study results, Th17 cells, as well as specific proteins they produce, become candidate therapeutic targets as part of future efforts to prevent autism.”

By: Nicole Caropolo

For more information, visit PRNewswire.



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