Maternal Antibodies May Play Role in Autism

February 29, 2008

Mothers of children with autistic disorder tend to have antibodies that react differently against fetal brain tissue than women with unaffected children, according to research released online in December in advance of publication in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.

FRIDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers of children with autistic disorder tend to have antibodies that react differently against fetal brain tissue than women with unaffected children, according to research released online in December in advance of publication in the Journal of Neuroimmunology.

Harvey S. Singer, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed data from 100 mothers of children with autistic disorder (MCAD) and 100 age-matched mothers of unaffected children as controls. Mothers gave serum samples, which researchers assayed against fetal and adult brain tissue, and adult and embryonic rat brain tissue.

For human fetal brain, more women in the MCAD group had Western immunoblot bands at 36 kDa (10 percent versus 2 percent of mothers of unaffected children). The MCAD women also had significantly larger corrected peak heights at 61 kDa.

"Based on our results…maternal sensitization alone likely does not account for autism. For example, although mothers having autistic children with developmental regression were more likely to have serum antibody reactivity against human fetal brain at 36 and 39 kDa, mothers with unaffected children also have reactivity to similar epitopes," the authors write. "Additionally, despite documenting that five multiplex mothers had serum antibodies at 61 kDa and solely affected offspring, MCAD possessing similar antibodies had normal offspring following the birth of an autistic child. Hence, rather than a direct association, there is likely a complex relationship between maternal anti-fetal brain antibodies and genetic/metabolic/environmental factors."

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