Whereas the exact cause of autism is still not known, researchers have shown that the disease is related to inflammation in the brain, thereby providing a ray of hope for its cure.
These new findings could bring scientists one step closer to solving the mystery about the disease.
Studies on gene expression and autism have not included enough data to come to a solid conclusion.
This is because gene expression testing must be conducted on specific tissues, and brain tissues can only be obtained in autopsies.
“This type of inflammation is not well understood, but it highlights the lack of current understanding about how innate immunity controls neural circuits,” said Andrew West, associate professor of neurology at the University of Alabama in Britain.
In order to understand the mystery surrounding autism, the team looked at gene expression in samples from two different tissue banks.
Then they compared those affected with autism and those without the condition.
They looked at data from 72 autism and control brains and found those affected by the condition exhibited a “ramped-up” immune response.
The researchers were able to pinpoint a type of support cell called a microglial cell, which helps protect the brain from invaders such as pathogens.
In brains with autism the microglia was perpetually activated with their genes for inflammation turned on.
“This is a downstream consequence of upstream gene mutation,” West said.
In the future, the researchers hope to determine whether or not treating the inflammation would help ease some of the symptoms of autism.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.