A new study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the NIEHS Center for Children's
Environmental Health demonstrate that children with autism have different immune system responses than
children who do not have the disorder. The study was released at the fourth annual International Meeting
for Autism Research.
"Understanding the biology of autism is crucial to developing better ways to diagnose and treat
it," said Judy Van de Water, associate professor of rheumatology, allergy and clinical immunology
at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute.
Van de Water, along with co-investigator Paul Ashwood, assistant professor of medical microbiology and
immunology at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, isolated immune cells from blood samples taken from 30
children with autism and 26 typically developing children aged between two and five years of age. The
cells from both groups were then exposed to bacterial and viral agents that usually provoke T-cells, B
cells and macrophages primary players in the immune system.
Of the agents tested in the study tetanus toxoid, lippopolysaccharide derived from E. coli cell walls,
a plant lectin known as PHA, and a preparation of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine antigens the
researchers found clear differences in cellular responses between patients and controls following exposure
to the bacterial agents and PHA.