The first large-scale study to link autism with autoimmunity has been published in the journal Molecular Biology. The study found that as many as 1 in 10 mothers of autistic children have antibodies in their bloodstream that react with proteins in the brains of their developing fetuses. More from ScienceDaily.com:
...While the blood-brain barrier in the adult women prevents them from being harmed by the antibodies, that same filter in the fetuses is not well-developed enough and so may allow the "anti-brain" antibodies to pass through to the babies' brains, possibly causing autism.
The study was led by Dr. Betty Diamond, head of the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Long Island, New York, who said the very large sample size "gives a clearer impression of the prevalence of these antibodies."
"We at AARDA applaud Dr. Diamond's research into an area that concerns all parents," said Virginia T. Ladd, President of American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA).
According to AARDA, in healthy people, when a foreign invader, such as a virus or bacteria, enters the body, the immune system produces antibodies to attack those foreign substances. In people with autoimmunity, the immune system mistakenly recognizes the body's own healthy tissues and organs as foreign invaders and produces antibodies to attack them. These auto-antibodies -- or antibodies produced against the self -- then cause disease. The disease that results depends upon which tissues and/or organs the antibodies are attacking.
Some 50 million Americans live and cope with autoimmune disease (AD), 75 percent of whom are women.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock