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Calls to Action

Consequences of Maternal Antigen Exposure on Offspring Immunity: An Animal Model of Vertical Tolerance

State/Province Full: 
United States

How pathogens and/or altered immune responses to pathogens or vaccines are related to the etiology of childhood autism remains unresolved. Recently, a chronic neuroinflammatory response was reported in some children with autism. In separate mouse studies, it was shown that maternal exposure to viral pathogens during pregnancy could adversely influence neurodevelopment in her offspring. Whether these findings are linked, and how they relate to the onset of autism, remain unresolved. The goal of this pilot project is to perform basic science experiments in a mouse model of central nervous system infection with measles virus (MV) to explore the potential link between maternal immune history and neuroinflammation. In preliminary experiments, Dr. Rall has shown that neonatal mice born of mothers that were previously infected with MV had increased expression of pro-inflammatory molecules, including those observed in autistic children. Moreover, the neonates appeared to be immunological tolerant to further infection by MV. This project will further characterize these findings in greater detail to gain insight into the impact of human maternal immunity on the developing immune system of her progeny. What this means for people with autism: This project will help define the role that altered immunity and chronic neuroinflammation play in the etiology of autism spectrum disorders.