Project Detail
Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) logo
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Autism spectrum disorder and autoimmune disease of mothers  

There is an extensive body of literature indicating that a subset of mothers who have children with autism carry brain-reactive antibodies - which affect the function of brain cells. There is a smaller, but quite compelling, body of literature indicating that these maternal antibodies can alter fetal brain development and subsequent behavior in the offspring if given intravenously to a gestating mouse or monkey. Betty Diamond and Peter Gregersen propose that women who carry these antibodies have a higher number of autoimmunity susceptibility genes compared with controls. The maternal brain is protected from antibody-mediated damage by the blood-brain barrier, whereas the fetal brain is exposed to all maternal antibodies. If brain-reactive antibodies of the mother can lead to autism spectrum disorders in the offspring, then approximately 15 to 20 percent of autism cases could be explained by this mechanism. In support of the researchers' hypothesis, a large population-based study has shown that mothers of children with autism are more likely than average to have rheumatoid arthritis or celiac disease. This study strengthens the conclusion of several smaller studies showing an increased incidence of autoimmune disease in families with a history of autism. This hypothesis is also appealing because of the potential ability to identify at-risk pregnancies and develop strategies for preventing antibody-mediated brain damage. Project Status


Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $91,479.50
Current Award Period 2010-2012
Project Number 175470
Principal Investigator Diamond, Betty
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 3: What Caused This To Happen And Can This Be Prevented? (Causes)
Subcategory Gene-Environment
Strategic Plan Objective Yellow dot: Objective has some degree of funding, but less than the recommended amount. 3SE. Support at least two studies to determine if there are subpopulations that are more susceptible to environmental exposures (e.g., immune challenges related to infections, vaccinations, or underlying autoimmune problems) by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $8,000,000 over 2 years.
Federal or Private? Private
Institution The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research
State/Country New York
Web Link 1 Autism spectrum disorder and autoimmune disease of mothers (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
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