In 2008, researchers found antibodies to fetal brain proteins in the blood of some women whose children developed autism. The discovery suggested that such antibodies might contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by interfering with brain development during pregnancy.
Today, the research team reports that they’ve identified the specific brain proteins targeted by several of these maternal antibodies. The proteins play key roles in brain development and brain-cell connections. If confirmed, the findings could lead to treatments that block the antibodies’ harmful activity during pregnancy. Already, the team is developing a diagnostic test that would scan for antibodies in a mother’s blood to gauge whether her young child might benefit from early therapy before the outward symptoms of autism appear.