Inflammation causes Autism by overgrowing Brain Cells

Inflammation causes Autism

A new study find that inflammation causes autism in mice offspring by an overgrowth of neural stem cells.

Autism is a disorder in child development. This disorder can cause problems with social interactions, communication and behavior. Previous studies have shown progress in diagnosing and treating autistic children early on leading to a brighter outlook for affected children. Several risk factors of this disorder are known. They include genetic factors, certain prescription drugs taken during pregnancy and having children later in life. There is no link between any vaccine and the disorder, many studies have confirmed this.

Inflammation Causes Autism in Mice

In this study researchers investigated if inflammation causes autism in mice. They found that the inflammation leads to an overgrowth of neural stem cells which in turn leads to autism symptoms.

In this study researchers caused an inflammation in pregnant mice by injecting small amounts of a toxin derived from e.coli bacteria. This toxin caused neural stem cells to overgrow in the mice pups brains. Although bigger brains might not seem negative it led the mice to develop autistic behavior. These included not screaming when separated from their mother, being less sociable , increased anxiety as well as repetitive behavior. The researchers also found what led to his overgrowth, a more active signal system. This signal system involves an enzyme, NADPH oxidase,  that promote neural stem cell growth.

Brain overgrowth’s link to autism have been known for some time. Mice with a rare gene mutation in a gene called PTEN, have abnormal brain growth. Missing one copy of this gene in people lead to macrocephaly, large head size, a condition known to have high autism risk.

Autism is a complex disorder in which many factors contributes to the disorder. This study found that inflammation causes autism in mice but inflammation is just one puzzle piece linked to the disorder. Finding the signal pathway that causes brain overgrowth can help researchers develop drugs to stop this process and maybe treat the disease at an early stage.

Image credit: hepingting via flickr.com in accordance with CC BY-SA 2.0