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Brain inflammation found in autism

Inflammation in the brain is clearly a feature of autism, according to a new study published November 15, 2004, in online edition of Annals of Neurology (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ana), the scientific journal of the American Neurological Association. The researchers found strong evidence that certain immune system components that promote inflammation are consistently activated in people with autism.

"These findings reinforce the theory that immune activation in the brain is involved in autism, although it is not yet clear whether it is destructive or beneficial, or both, to the developing brain," said senior author Carlos A. Pardo-Villamizar, M.D., at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

Autism is a disorder of the developing brain that appears in early childhood. It is estimated to afflict between 2 and 5 of every 1000 children and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Children with autism have difficulties in social interaction and communication and may show repetitive behaviors and have unusual attachments to objects or routines.

Autism has a strong genetic component, and in some families, autism tends to be more prevalent. In identical twins with autism both are usually affected. However, the number of children with autism appears to be increasing more than expected for a genetic disorder. This suggests to scientists that genetic abnormalities require the influence of other factors to cause the disorder. Birth complications, toxins, diet, and viruses and other pathogens have been suggested, though there is no strong evidence for any of these.

In recent years, there have been scientific hints of immune system irregularities in children with autism, but not all studies have confirmed this. Pardo and his colleagues sought a more definitive answer by looking not at the immune system overall, but at immune comp
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Contact: David Greenberg
dgreenbe@wiley.com
201-748-6484
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
15-Nov-2004


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