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Brain Inflammation Reveals Genetic Marker Of Autism

First Posted: Dec 11, 2014 11:52 AM EST
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Recent findings published in the journal Nature Communications reveal a pattern of inflammation linked to autism from increased immune responses.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are classified as a neurodevelopmental issue that affects social interactions and communicative development that's oftentimes characterized by repetitive behaviors and other cognitive issues. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 1 in 68 children in the United States alone are dealing with an ASD.

"There are many different ways of getting autism, but we found that they all have the same downstream effect," said Dan Arking, an associate professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, via Bioscience Technology. "What we don't know is whether this immune response is making things better in the short term and worse in the long term."

For the study, researchers analyzed gene expression in samples from two different tissue banks while comparing gene expression to those with autism. They studied data from 104 brain samples from 72 individuals with the largest data set so far from a study on gene expression in autism.

Findings revealed that the microglia of these individuals' brains was constantly activated, with inflammation responses turned on in related genes.

As researchers hope to understand more about this type of inflammation in years to come, it shows a common lack of understanding regarding immunity affects neural circuits.

In the future, they also hope to see if treating the inflammation associated with autism could help to mitigate symptoms.

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