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Autism may be linked to abnormal immune system characteristics and novel protein fragment
Date:1/3/2012

Tampa, FL (Jan 3, 2012) Immune system abnormalities that mimic those seen with autism spectrum disorders have been linked to the amyloid precursor protein (APP), reports a research team from the University of South Florida's Department of Psychiatry and the Silver Child Development Center.

The study, conducted with mouse models of autism, suggests that elevated levels of an APP fragment circulating in the blood could explain the aberrations in immune cell populations and function both observed in some autism patients. The findings were recently published online in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

The USF researchers concluded that the protein fragment might be both a biomarker for autism and a new research target for understanding the physiology of the disorder.

"Autism affects one in 110 children in the United States today," said research team leader Jun Tan, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and the Robert A. Silver Chair, Rashid Laboratory for Developmental Neurobiology at USF's Silver Child Development Center. "While there are reports of abnormal T-cell numbers and function in some persons affected with autism, no specific cause has been identified. The disorder is diagnosed by behavioral observation and to date no associated biomarkers have been identified."

"Not only are there no associated biomarkers, but the prognosis for autism is poor and the costs associated with care are climbing," said Francisco Fernandez, MD, department chair and head of the Silver Center. "The work of Dr. Tan and his team is a start that may lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments."

The amyloid precursor protein is typically the focus of research related to Alzheimer's disease. However, recent scientific reports have identified elevated levels of the particular protein fragment, called, sAPP-α, in the blood of autistic children. The fragment is a well-k
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@health.usf.edu
813-974-3303
University of South Florida (USF Health)
Source:Eurekalert  

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