Neonatal chemokines altered in autistic spectrum patients

Published on January 3, 2013 at 5:15 PM · No Comments

By Joanna Lyford, Senior medwireNews Reporter

A study by scientists has found limited evidence to support a role for proinflammatory chemokines in the pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

Neonatal blood levels of one such chemokine, known as "Regulated upon Activation Normal T-Cell Expressed and Secreted" (RANTES), were lower in people who subsequently developed ASDs than in those who remained healthy.

The study was undertaken by Morsi Abdallah (University of Rostock, Germany) and team, who previously examined levels of inflammatory cytokines in amniotic fluid samples from ASD patients and controls.

As in the earlier study, the team used the Danish Historic Birth Cohort, which includes all individuals born between 1982 and 2000 and is linked to the Danish Psychiatric Central Register.

From this cohort they identified 359 individuals with a diagnosis of ASD with 741 ASD-free controls matched for gender and year of birth. Neonatal blood samples from all participants were analyzed for levels of Monocyte Chemotactic Protein-1, Macrophage Inflammatory Protein-1a, and RANTES.

In crude analyses, levels of RANTES were significantly lower in ASD patients than in controls, with an unadjusted odds ratio at the 10th percentile (OR10p) of 1.59. This difference was driven by lower RANTES levels in female than male patients, with an OR10p of 4.39, which was statistically significant.

In analyses that adjusted for baseline differences, however, levels of all three cytokines were similar in ASD cases and controls.

Abdallah et al say their findings suggest that lower levels of RANTES are associated with developing ASD later in life.

"This could suggest a hypoactive immune cell pattern during the early neonatal period in ASD and may also indicate a timing-specific role of chemokines in the pathophysiology of ASD," they write.

"Further research to elucidate the placental passage of chemokines, their secretion sites (maternal/placental versus fetal) and the specificity of our findings is necessary to better understand chemokines role in ASD during pregnancy and after birth."

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