Health of mom’s gut a key factor in autism risk, study suggests
| Could reducing risk of autism involve changing expectant mothers’ diets?
July 18, 2018 | Source: University of Virginia Health System
(Science Daily) A mother’s microbiome — the collection of microorganisms that naturally live inside us — during pregnancy plays a critical role in determining the risk developing autism-spectrum disorders, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.
The work raises the tantalizing possibility that preventing forms of autism could involve modifying an expectant mom’s diet or taking custom probiotics.
Further, the UVA scientists were able to use their discovery to prevent the development of autism-like neurodevelopmental disorders in lab mice.
They found they could halt the development of such disorders by blocking a particular inflammatory molecule produced by the immune system.
Targeting this molecule, interleukin-17a, offers another potential avenue for preventing autism in people, the researchers say. They caution, however, that this approach would be much more complex because of the risk of side effects.
“We determined that the microbiome is a key contributor in determining susceptibility [to autism-like disorders], so it suggests that you could target either the maternal microbiome or this inflammatory molecule, IL-17a,” said lead researcher John Lukens, PhD, of UVA’s Department of Neuroscience.
“You could also use this [IL-17a] as a biomarker for early diagnosis.”
Microbiome and Autism
The groundbreaking work from Lukens and his colleagues sheds light on the complex relationship between the health of the mother’s microbiome and the healthy development of her children.
“The microbiome can shape the developing brain in multiple ways,” explained Lukens, of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG) and UVA’s Carter Immunology Center.
“The microbiome is really important to the calibration of how the offspring’s immune system is going to respond to an infection or injury or stress.”
But an unhealthy microbiome in the mom can create problems … Read the full story at Science Daily.