The immune response in autism: A new frontier for autism research

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339 Scopus citations

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are part of a broad spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders known as pervasive developmental disorders, which occur in childhood. They are characterized by impairments in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and the presence of restricted and repetitive stereotyped behaviors. At the present time, the etiology of ASD is largely unknown, but genetic, environmental, immunological, and neurological factors are thought to play a role in the development of ASD. Recently, increasing research has focused on the connections between the immune system and the nervous system, including its possible role in the development of ASD. These neuroimmune interactions begin early during embryogenesis and persist throughout an individual's lifetime, with successful neurodevelopment contingent upon a normal balanced immune response. Immune aberrations consistent with a dysregulated immune response, which so far, have been reported in autistic children, include abnormal or skewed T helper cell type 1 (TH1)/ TH2 cytokine profiles, decreased lymphocyte numbers, decreased T cell mitogen response, and the imbalance of serum immunoglobulin levels. In addition, autism has been linked with autoimmunity and an association with immune-based genes including human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DRB1 and complement C4 alleles described. There is potential that such aberrant immune activity during vulnerable and critical periods of neurodevelopment could participate in the generation of neurological dysfunction characteristic of ASD. This review will examine the status of the research linking the immune response with ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Volume80
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2006

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Cytokines
  • Immunity
  • Inflammation
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Neurokine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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