Autism in children has been blamed on everything from bad
vaccines to bad luck. But a new study published in the journal Translational
Psychiatry suggests that something else may play a role in certain cases: mom, herself. Some mothers of children who suffer from autism seem to have immune
system antibodies that damage their fetuses' brain proteins, says U.S.
News & World Report.
The team that made the discovery —a group of scientists from
the University of California, Davis MIND Institute—thinks that the news isn't
all bad. They are hopeful that their findings, discouraging though they may be,
could provide leads for the development of new drugs.
The scientists have also come up with a name for the type of
autism that appears connected to these antibodies: Maternal
Autoantibody-Related (MAR) autism. It may account for as much as 23 percent of all
cases of autism, they say.
In conducting their research, scientists studied blood
samples from 246 mothers of autistic children and 149 mothers whose children do
not have the disorder. Their findings: The former group of mothers were more
than 21 times as likely to have MAR antibodies that affected fetal brain
"This latest research takes
us one step closer” to clearing up some mysteries surrounding autism, says Dr.
Andrew Adesman, who is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at
Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, located in New Hyde Park. Adesman, who was not involved in the study, adds, “If maternal antibodies are
indeed responsible for causing some cases of autism, then there is the
possibility that a blood test could be done prenatally or even prior to getting
pregnant to assess one's risk of having a child on the autism spectrum
Adds Judy Van de Water, the
study’s principal investigator, "We hope that, one day, we can tell a
mother more precisely what her antibody profile means for her child, then
target interventions more effectively."