The UC Davis MIND Institute has come up with a new extremely useful creation for the people who suffer from maternal antibody-related (MAR) autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers have created a mouse model to test the conditions and behaviors of the people who suffer from this disease. The mouse model can behave like a human and can mimic all the physiology and behavior that a person with this disease might possess. The maternal autoantibodies, imposed on humans, can react with the new developing brain tissues.
The professor in the UC Davis MIND Institute and Center for Children’s Environmental Health and also the senior author on the paper, Judy Van de Water stated in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that this model has helped them to see more clearly the mechanism and the conditions of the brains of the animals. The model will help them better analyze the effects of the disease on the development human brain. This creation might even help in developing therapeutics.
Professor further explains that the fully grown adult brain can easily block antibodies however the new fetal brain cells are more porous and they allow the autoantibodies to enter into the brain. The same phenomena are observed in about 25% of the children who suffer from ASD.
What inspired the research?
This research was mainly conducted to make the lives of the people who suffer from MAR ASD better. A model was needed that the researchers could use in order to observe the conditions and the paths of this disease. This model would also help them to have a clear understanding about the roles of the autoantibodeis in the ASD. The question to answer was that whether these autoantibodies were the actual reason of the disease or were they just a part of some other process that causes this disease?
How was the model created?
This model was created using the human structure. Different regions were specified of seven human proteins that are bound by the autoantibodies. These pieces of proteins were then used in mice to create the similar kind of reactivity in them. The models were then observed for the answers to questions.
After the complete model was ready for testing, the mice were put under different behavioral and other social tests for months. It was observed that the mice showed symptoms of having trouble in social interactions and were not able to self-groom. Moreover, enlarged heads were also observed, just similar to the humans who suffer from this disease. Other human like behaviors were also observed in the mice.
The post-doctoral researcher Karen L. Jones stated that they were able to clinically match the test results with the children who suffered from autism. She further said that autism was clearly a human disorder and chances of finding an autistic mouse were highly unlikely. However, the researchers were very surprised to see the mouse model mapping so well to the human characteristics.
The model and all the tests finally showed that the maternal autoantibodies were responsible for the disease. They have significant effect on the behaviors of disease bearers.
Further studies are still needed in order to clearly identify the effects of these antibodies on the disease and how they affect the human brain.
The model will help the researchers to further analyze the symptoms and the effects of the autoantibodies on the development of the brain. The model is much more capable of providing with more detailed study.
The Environmental Protection Agency (83543201), the NIEHS-funded CHARGE study (R01ES015359), the NICHD-funded IDDRC 054 (U54HD079125), the Hearst Foundation, The Hartwell Foundation and The NIEHS Center for Children’s Environmental Health (2P01ES011269-11), supported this research.