Autism results from an interplay between genetics and the environment, but it has been tough to nail down the environmental factors involved.
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.
The brain’s immune cells, called microglia, function differently in male and female rodents. In people, a similar phenomenon may make male brains more vulnerable to autism.
Watch the complete replay of Judy Van de Water discussing the maternal immune system and autism.
Food allergies may be more than twice as common among autistic children as among their typical peers; boys with autism also tend to have skin and respiratory allergies.