Children with autism have immune deficiency

autismA new study from the University of California Davis, published in the journal Pediatrics, points to the fact that children with have a deficient immune system. The study was conducted using of children enrolled in the Childhood Risk of and the Environment (CHARGE) Study and included 10 children with severe age 2 to 5 and 10 age-, race- and sex-matched children who were developing typically.

The deficiency is in the form of granulocytes which exhibit one third capacity to and protect the body from cell invasion and deficiencies in the cells’ ability to fuel brain neurons might lead to some of the cognitive impairments associated with . Higher levels of free radicals also might contribute to severity

The cells are less capable of promoting the needed oxidative response to combat invading pathogens and the mitochondria in these cells consume far less oxygen. Mitochondria are the main intracellular source of oxygen free radicals, which are very reactive and can harm cellular structures and DNA. Cells can repair typical levels of oxidative damage. However, in the children with the cells produced more free radicals and were less able to repair the damage, and as a result experienced more oxidative stress. The free radical levels in the blood cells of children with were 1 ½ times greater than those without the disorder.

“Granulocytes fight cellular invaders like bacteria and viruses by producing highly reactive oxidants, that kill . Our findings show that in children with severe the level of that response was both lower and slower,” said Eleonora Napoli, lead and project scientist in the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “The granulocytes generated less highly reactive oxidants and took longer to produce them.”

“The response found among granulocytes mirrors earlier results obtained with lymphocytes from children with severe , underscoring the cross-talk between and response to oxidative damage,” said Cecilia Giulivi, professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the study’s senior author.

“It also suggests that the immune response seems to be modulated by a nuclear factor named NRF2,” that controls antioxidant response to and may hold clues to the gene-environment interaction in , Giulivi said.


E. Napoli, S. Wong, I. Hertz-Picciotto, C. Giulivi. Deficits in Bioenergetics and Impaired Immune Response in Granulocytes From Children With . PEDIATRICS, 2014; 133 (5): e1405 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-1545

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