Study found brain inflammation a shared symptom among individuals with autism

CC BY-SA by jepoirrier

CC BY-SA by jepoirrier

Birmingham, Alabama — A study conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that individuals with autism share a common symptom of inflammation in the brain.

Researchers concluded that individuals with autism have significantly ‘ramped-up immune responses’, after conducting a study using gene expression analysis. In the study, samples were taken from two different tissue banks, wherein the gene expressions of individuals with autism were compared against those of the subjects without autism.

According to Dan Arking, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins University, one of the lead researchers,

“What we don’t know is whether this immune response is making things better in the short term and worse in the long term.”

Previous studies have already concluded that abnormalities in cells that aid neurons in the brain and spinal cord exist in individuals with autism, but it was Arking’s team who was able to pinpoint the exact cell that has the abnormality. According to the researchers, the microglial cell bears that abnormality, which appears to be perpetually activated. Its genes for inflammation responses also appeared to be permanently on. Microglial cells are the cells responsible for policing the brain for pathogens and other hostile threats.

Researchers say that the next step likely to be taken will be to find out if treating the inflammation can alleviate the symptoms of autism.

Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta

Source: Medical XPress website: Brain inflammation a hallmark of autism, large-scale analysis shows