Autism is predominantly genetic in origin, but a growing list of prenatal exposures for mother and baby may sway the odds.
A protective molecular tag on neurons can prevent microglia, the brain’s immune cells, from trimming away their connections with other neurons.
Triggering an immune defense in newborn male mice missing a copy of TSC2, a gene linked to autism, impairs the mice’s social memory.
Chronic exposure to inflammation in the womb alters autism gene expression and disrupts social behavior in male mice, but not females.
In mice exposed to maternal inflammation in the womb, a key chemical messenger never makes the switch from exciting brain signals to inhibiting them.
Rats exposed prenatally to a cocktail of ‘autoimmune’ molecules have altered levels of two types of compounds needed for brain development.
A pregnant mouse’s response to infection alters the immune cells in her pups’ brains, and this may contribute to their autism-like behaviors.
A specially made ‘decoy’ protein prevents an immune molecule from crossing the placenta; the strategy may prevent the brain changes that lead to autism.