By Teresa Conrick
I have been writing about my daughter, Megan, her autism diagnosis, her immune system and the Microbiome for quite awhile. The connections continue to mount. It makes sense that researchers keep seeing the immune system involved in Autism. In our situation, Megan has both an Autism diagnosis and an Autoimmune diagnosis. Treating her with antibiotics, probiotics, organic and prebiotic foods, and interventions to help the immune system work more productively, increases her health and also decreases her symptoms of Autism. Here is yet another study showing that the immune system and the brain are intimately connected:
Immune dysfunction is commonly associated with several neurological and mental disorders...Here we show that meningeal immunity is also critical for social behaviour; mice deficient in adaptive immunity exhibit social deficits and hyper-connectivity of fronto-cortical brain regions. Associations between rodent transcriptomes from brain and cellular transcriptomes in response to T-cell-derived cytokines suggest a strong interaction between social behaviour and interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-driven responses. Concordantly, we demonstrate that inhibitory neurons respond to IFN-γ and increase GABAergic (γ-aminobutyric-acid) currents in projection neurons, suggesting that IFN-γ is a molecular link between meningeal immunity and neural circuits recruited for social behaviour...This study implicates adaptive immune dysfunction, in particular IFN-γ, in disorders characterized by social dysfunction and suggests a co-evolutionary link between social behaviour and an anti-pathogen immune response driven by IFN-γ signalling.
Here is that same study in layman's terms - Does the Immune System Have a Role in Battling Autism?, Scientific American, July 14, 2016:
Molecules that protect the body from infection may be needed for mice to socialize with their peers, according to a study published today in Nature...The findings bolster an emerging link between the immune system and conditions such as autism, says lead researcher Jonathan Kipnis, professor of neuroscience at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Whether we like it or not, there is a piling up of evidence that the immune system has a major impact on brain function: The brain is not isolated from the rest of the body,” he says. The study pinpoints an immune molecule called interferon gamma as the key to this link. This molecule primes cells to attack intruders, and is ramped up during infections.
The researchers found that without interferon gamma, signals in a brain region called the prefrontal cortex run rampant, and mice tend to be asocial. The prefrontal cortex is involved in social behavior, and is thought to be overactive in some people with autism. “We show that an immune molecule directly controls brain circuits through neurons,” Kipnis says.
...This suggests that interferon gamma normally dampens brain signals in this region — and that it affects social behavior. Replenishing the spinal fluid of the mice with interferon gamma is enough to restore social behavior in the mice...The findings may explain the observation that some children with autism seem to become more sociable when they have a fever, Kipnis says. Elevated levels of molecules such as interferon gamma accompany fevers.
Kipnis says understanding the immune link to social behavior might help scientists find drugs that treat autism. Clinicians might be able to administer the treatment in the cerebrospinal fluid, he says, rather than via the brain.
That's very interesting and hopeful. I have written about interferon gamma and it seems pertinent now:
On June 18th, 1994, my daughter received an MMR vaccine and a HIB vaccine during a well-baby visit at our pediatrician. Megan was fifteen months old. Ten days later, her pediatrician report shows, - "Fever- rash on body - ear infection." That would be from me calling more than once as she had been sick since those vaccines. She was to be put on antibiotics numerous times to try and recapture the health she once had. Illness had become her chronic companion. What was even more troubling was that my little girl had disappeared into an array of behaviors soon to be called "autism."
In that same article, I posted two studies that seemed related to each other, and to my daughter. The first one showed "EtHg [THIMEROSAL] decreases IFN-gamma release". Further reading showed that IFN-gamma has antiviral activity and also important immunoregulatory functions. It is a potent activator of macrophages, has antiproliferative effects on transformed cells and it can potentiate the antiviral and antitumor effects of the type I interferons." Another study I have since discovered from the same year Megan was born, 1993, details this same phenomenon: "mercury interferes with T cell IFN-gamma production by affecting the intracellular availability of GSH."
The second study from my article was related to Megan's MMR vaccine at that same doctor visit:
"IFN-ã applied to infected slices in the absence of primed leukocytes reduces the viral load by more than 80%; therefore, in brain tissue, IFN-ã [ IFN-gamma] is both necessary and sufficient to clear MV [measles virus]."
So we now see that again, IFN-gamma, seems to play an extremely important role in Autism.
I had to look and see if somehow the Microbiome was involved. It really is the epicenter of the immune system and implicated so much in Autism. This study below shows that it may actually be the gut -AGAIN- in Autism that controls this immune response of interferon gamma to the brain. There's no getting away from MERCURY, the MMR vaccine and the Microbiome as big players in Autism. Seeing the immune system implicated yet again in Autism just seals the deal.
Paneth cells (PCs) are terminally differentiated, highly specialized secretory cells located at the base of the crypts of Lieberkühn in the small intestine. Besides their antimicrobial function, PCs serve as a component of the intestinal stem cell niche. By secreting granules containing bactericidal proteins like defensins/cryptdins and lysozyme, PCs regulate the microbiome of the gut....We show that PC degranulation does not directly occur upon stimulation with microbial antigens or bacteria. In contrast, the pro-inflammatory cytokine Interferon gamma (IFN-γ) induces rapid and complete loss of granules...The identification of IFN-γ as a trigger for degranulation and extrusion of PCs establishes a novel effector mechanism by which immune responses may regulate epithelial status and the gut microbiome.
Teresa Conrick is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.