Special cells discovered! They prevent, they cure. More tests needed before it can be declared officially as an efficient measure, but studies so far exhibited positive outcomes in both treatment and prevention of autism in infantile brains. A dramatic turn-around can thus be anticipated in the lives of millions of individuals Autism worldwide.
A bit more about Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder creates a wide range of life-disrupting symptoms and stigmatizes the affected due to their vastly different behaviour patterns. Their difficulties amy range from normal conversations to an inability and unwillingness to welcome changes in routines or lifestyle and following unusual rules. Autistic individuals have often been noticed to arrange objects in definite patterns regularly which hold no meaning to the world but them. They easily become upset if they are opposed.
There are several causal factors behind; from viral infections to the pregnant to nutritional deficiencies. Successful treatment of ASD, so far, has been primarily through intervention techniques like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). No permanent bio-medication solution for Autism has been found yet.
Some pretty recent statistics:
Autism numbers have been steadily on the rise. Here are some statistics globally and in the U.S:
- 2013 showed one child in 160 (worldwide) to be affected with ASD, the types and intensities varying.
- 2010 estimates show 1 out of 68 children in the US is affected with autism.
Source: UN’s World Health Organization & Autism Speaks
Details of the Study
- A research team from New York University found out about immune cells that fight infections, creating a cellular army that attacks any invading microbe. Take a deep breath, for we are going technical now. The full copy of their report could be purchased here on Science Mag
- The mechanism behind fighting infections has Th17 (a subset of cells) as a component that releases a protein that helps the body to fight infections better. This protein is called Interleukin-17 or IL-17a. But this nature-set bodily response creates behavioural abnormalities, the study says. Question is: How fatal may this activation of Th17 cells to produce IL-17 prove in affecting the embryo?
- The tests were conducted on pregnant mice. The scientists triggered the production of Th17 and IL-17a by mimicking a viral invasion. The behavioural abnormalities in the mice born were assessed to put the conclusion.
Findings of the Study
Mice that received higher exposure to IL-17a levels were unable to distinguish between live mice and toys. Their interactions were same for both, as opposed to normal mice that socially interacted more with other live mice.
- These mice also exhibited compulsive, repetitive behaviour like burying marbles one after another.
- Blocking the actions of Th17 and IL-17a restored the brains to their normal structure and function.
Statement from the research team
Dan Littman, Immunologist & study author, NYU Langone, comments, “To our investigation thus far, this is one of the first studies to identify a specific population of immune cells that could have a direct role in causing behaviors closely linked to autism. Based on these study results, Th17 cells, as well as specific proteins they produce, become candidate therapeutic targets as part of future efforts to prevent autism.”
Littman further continues, “The logical next steps would be a study of viral infection during pregnancy following thousands of women, tracking instances of viral infection or flare-ups in autoimmune conditions and the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in children over a span of several years”
The Current standing:
Dr. Littman’s team already patented the methods. However, blocking IL-17 as a usable human treatment for ASD would take years to be put into practice.