The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 11, 2013

How a mother unwittingly causes autism in her child

LOS ANGELES — An immune system that ensures survival is one of the earliest gifts from a mother to her child. But sometimes, that gift can be a Trojan horse, sending soldiers that are programmed to attack the body’s own antigens into the fetus, where they interfere with brain development.

The result is maternal autoantibody related autism, which may account for as much as 23 percent of the cases of that spectrum of brain disorders.

Now researchers at the University of California, Davis, believe they have found the targets of these maternal autoantibodies, a potential step in the path toward preventive treatment for women contemplating pregnancy.

The researchers also demonstrated that these human autoantibodies can change the social behavior and brain mass of a close primate cousin, the rhesus monkey, in ways that are parallel to autism’s symptoms in humans.

Though the effects of these immunoglobulin-G compounds on animal and human brains have become more clear in recent years, why they arise in the first place remains a mystery.

“You’re making antibodies to your own proteins, rather than foreign bodies; it’s when the immune system gets it wrong,” said UC Davis immunologist Judy Van de Water, lead author of one of the studies, published Tuesday in the journal Translational Psychiatry. “What causes it in this case we may never know.”

Identifying the targets of these oddly programmed proteins has taken years. Van de Water and her colleagues have struggled to tease out all the identities of these compounds from a range of suspect molecules identified through chemical imaging.

But through a complex series of lock-and-key experiments, the team identified seven fetal antigens that were attacked by the maternal autoantibodies. All but one have been linked with the creation and development of neurons, particularly in the hippocampus. That region, associated with memory and learning, has been tied to autism in numerous studies.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Injured snowy owl ready to be released ST. PAUL (AP) — A rare snowy owl that gained national attention when it was apparently hit by a bus in the nation's capital is scheduled to be released into the wild after a rehab stint in Minnesota. The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • Court case to test 'Buy the Farm' law NEW PRAGUE (AP) — A case set for trial next week is expected to test Minnesota's "Buy the Farm" law, which is meant to require utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms in the way if affected landowners demand it. The case pits th

    April 18, 2014

  • Judge strikes down part of state energy law MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders — and she barred Minnesota

    April 18, 2014

  • White House updating online privacy policy A new Obama administration privacy policy released Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites, and it clarifies that online comments, whether tirades or tribut

    April 18, 2014

  • Horse virus cases showing up in Upper Midwest BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — State officials in the Upper Midwest are cautioning horse owners about a virus that spreads easily among the animals and can lead to breathing problems, abortions and nervous system disorders. Three cases of equine herpesvirus

    April 18, 2014

  • Bear attacks spark debate: Kill them, or leave them alone? ORLANDO, Fla.—Dallas Smith thinks he has the answer to Central Florida’s black-bear threat, and he’s ready to lock and load it. “I think the fear of God needs to be put back into them,” said Smith, 47, who wants state authorities to lift restriction

    April 18, 2014

  • Tourism push plays up 'Only in Minnesota' ST. PAUL — (AP) — Say goodbye to "More to Explore." Minnesota tourism promoters ushered in a new slogan Thursday that focuses on "Only in Minnesota" experiences as part of their largest-ever advertising campaign. The revamped message kicks off a maj

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp ap pipeline photo Minnesota Pipe Line seeks to expand capacity MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Pipe Line Co. announced plans Thursday to nearly double the capacity of a crude oil pipeline that carries oil from Canada and North Dakota to the two refineries in the Twin Cities that produce most of Minnesota's and much

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holder asserts his commitment to fighting heroin WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been crusading for more lenient treatment for nonviolent drug offenders, making it a top priority before he is expected to leave office this year. Recently, however, he has been forced to confront

    April 17, 2014

  • Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds ATLANTA — Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her speech, but she

    April 17, 2014