Authors: Alice Weatherston
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has previously been linked to maternal antibodies that have the potential to affect the vulnerable fetal brain. New evidence from researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (NY, USA) has successfully highlighted the relationship between one such antibody and structural brain changes and ASD behaviors in mice. The findings inidicate that ASD therapies based on the blocking of maternal antibodies may help to prevent the disorder in a subset of cases. The results were presented today at Neuroscience 2015 (17 – 21 October, Chicago, IL, USA).
In the new study, which was lead by Lior Brimberg (Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, NY, USA), the research team isolated a selection of maternal antibodies from mothers of ASD children and injected them into pregnant mice. All mice were at a stage in fetal development in which the brain was not yet protected from antibodies through the blood-brain barrier.
Brimberg explained the results: “We found that male offspring but not female offspring exposed in utero to one particular antibody showed structural abnormalities in the developing. As adults, those male mice displayed behavioral abnormalities reminiscent of ASD.”
The study indicated that the relevant antibody, termed C6 is responsible for targeting the protein Caspr2, which is also encoded for by a known autism associated gene. Male mice exhibited cortical plate thinning and a reduction in mitotic cells in comparison to controls.
“Our finding that a single maternal anti-brain antibody mediates fetal brain abnormalities and long-term behavioral changes provides new insight into ASD,” Brimberg commented. “Our study could lead to development of reagents that block these antibodies and prevent the occurrence of this subtype of ASD.”
Source: Neuroscience 2015 press release