Study Reveals Potential Link Between Mothers’ Immune Systems and Autism


For several years now, the medical research community has been working diligently to identify causes of autism.  While some have been defined, we still remain a long way from a cure.  That’s especially troubling when one considers the fact that the autism rate in the United States has doubled over the past 10 – 15 years, as 1 of every 88 children now born across the country is ultimately diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  While several studies that have attempted to identify causes for this condition have not led to definitive results, one study that recently released its findings is garnering much in the way of interest and hope.

Specifically, researchers at the University of California-Davis recently completed a study that looked at the auto-immune antibodies that are present in mothers.  The study compared and analyzed blood samples from 246 mothers of children with autism and from 149 mothers of children without autism.  The researchers found that the mothers with autism were at least 21 times more likely to have what are known as MAR antibodies in their systems than the mothers of children who did not have the condition.

The full text of the study can be found here, as it was published in the July 9 edition of Translational Psychiatry.  Overall, the researchers concluded that as many as 23 percent of children with autism could have what is now being called Maternal Autoantibody-Related autism or MAR autism.  The conclusions drawn by the study have led to strong reactions within the medical research community, as many are offering hope that this discovery can lead to additional important advancements.

For instance, one theory that’s been offered in response to these results is that if it turns out that the link between the presence of these antibodies and their tendency to affect the development of a fetus’ brain are strong, it could lead to new therapies.  These therapies could include providing the expecting mothers who have these antibodies in their systems with antibody blockers that would inhibit these substances from affecting brain development.  This could ultimately lead to a downturn in the autism rate if such a therapy proves to be effective.

However, there is still much more to be learned, and at this point these results are likely to prompt additional studies that look more closely at this potential link between certain antibodies and autism.  As it stands now, even if this was a cause of the condition, there are still many others that need to be determined aside from other genetic problems, the potential for exposure to air pollution to lead to this diagnosis and of course the infliction of brain injuries on children who are in the process of being born because of a medical mistake that is made.

We have been representing families as New York medical malpractice lawyers since 1971, and we have seen too many of them struggle because a doctor did not handle a birth properly and the child suffered brain damage that led to a diagnosis of autism.  The team at The Fitzgerald Law Firm hopes that this study proves to be the foundation for additional learning that one day leads to a cure.