The immune system in autism

The enemy within

The possibility that autism is caused by a maternal immune system gone awry is no longer a fringe idea — but proposals to identify or fix these glitches are still controversial.

By Lydia Denworth
9 March 2016 | 17 min read

Blocking key immune signal prevents autism signs in mice

Researchers have identified a key immune molecule in pregnant mice that produces autism-like behaviors in their pups.

By Ann Griswold
18 February 2016 | 4 min read

The brain’s secret gardeners

Once thought merely to be specialized immune system cells, microglia now appear to be master landscapers of the developing brain.

By Rebecca Boyle
3 February 2016 | 14 min read

Immune disorders during pregnancy boost autism risk in children

Women who have lupus are roughly twice as likely as women without an immune disorder to have a child with autism.

By Jessica Wright
8 October 2015 | 5 min read
Portrait of Beth Stevens.

Beth Stevens: Casting immune cells as brain sculptors

Beth Stevens is unmasking new roles for microglia, the mysterious brain cells that seem to shape brain circuits.

By Nicholette Zeliadt
24 September 2015 | 9 min read

Study questions promise of bone marrow transplant for Rett

Researchers from four labs were unable to reproduce the findings from a high-profile 2012 study in which bone marrow transplants dramatically extended the lives of mice with features of Rett syndrome. Their sobering findings were published yesterday in Nature.

By Jessica Wright
22 May 2015 | 7 min read

Monkey mother’s immune response changes her infant’s brain

Monkeys whose mothers are infected with a mock virus while pregnant show abnormal branching of certain brain cells. The findings may help explain why infection during a woman’s pregnancy ups the risk of autism in her children.

By Charles Q. Choi
27 April 2015 | 3 min read

Maternal infection exacerbates genes’ effect on autism

Children with too many or too few copies of certain genes are more likely to have autism, as are children born to women who battled a severe infection while pregnant. These seemingly disparate risk factors may work together to worsen autism symptoms.

By Maris Fessenden
23 February 2015 | 6 min read

Large study links maternal infection to autism risk

Having an infection during pregnancy significantly raises the risk of having a child with autism, finds the largest epidemiological study to date to examine the link.

By Nicholette Zeliadt
9 October 2014 | 6 min read

Newborn blood may reveal early immune signs of autism

Children diagnosed with autism tend to have low blood levels of several immune molecules at birth, according to an epidemiological study published in August in the Journal of Immunology.

By Alla Katsnelson
22 October 2012 | 5 min read

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