Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Maternal immune activation and monkeys continued

I sure do hope that all those fictional stories of apes turning the tables on humans don't ever come true. Indeed should you ever hear a Charlton Heston-esque character uttering 'You cut up his brain, you bloody baboon!' you might want to look to those in the field of monkey research as being the first ones with their brains on the chopping block in a sort of tit-for-tat style.

I jest of course. But the theme of monkey research runs strong in today's post as I introduce the paper by Melissa Bauman and colleagues* adding yet further evidence to the possible connection between maternal immune activation (let's call it MIA for short) and offspring behavioural development and characteristics.

For those with a close eye on autism and schizophrenia research, you'll probably already have heard of the work of Paul Patterson and colleagues (see here) and that coming out of the MIND Institute (see here) on how mothers' immune function during pregnancy might influence the risk of offspring presenting with said conditions. Indeed, with no clinical advice given or intended, the extended work looking into things like the use of suramin (see here) on offspring of mouse models with MIA in mind is also worthy of attention (note: the stress is on mouse models not human models).

For those who follow this blog, you might remember that I've already talked about some of the other work of Melissa Bauman and colleagues and the concept of maternal autoantibody-related autism (MAR). The emphasis there was on how monkeys have been introduced into MIA research and so perhaps relieving the burden on our poor Murine friends. If you happen to be a rat however, be warned... it looks like autism research is moving its eye of Sauron on to you.

The latest paper from Bauman (which also included Paul Patterson on the authorship list) differed from their MIA paper** insofar as instead of transplanting purified IgG brain reactive antibodies derived from mums of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into monkeys, they used an artificial 'viral mimic'*** to stimulate the maternal immune system. The mimic was administered to pregnant monkeys either early or late gestation and compared with a non-mimic control group of rhesus monkeys.

As per the previous study, offspring behaviour was analysed over a 2-year period and some notable differences were reported: "MIA yields offspring with abnormal repetitive behaviors, communication, and social interactions". Readers might see a few similarities between the areas reported and the main topic of this blogsite.

This is interesting data of that there is no doubt. Allowing for the relatively small groups of animals included for study (13 experimental animals and 11 controls) and the important fact that monkeys are monkeys and not human beings with all their complexities, one might be inclined to think that MIA is certainly a field making advances.

With my own research hat on, bearing in mind MIA is most definitely not my field of expertise, I do wonder whether we might be hearing more from this group on something reported (but still awaiting peer review publication) by Prof. Patterson not so long ago: leaky gut being present in the offspring of MIA mother mice (see here). Ah yes, leaky gut (gut hyperpermeability if you will). The same leaky gut in cases of autism which has very recently been confirmed by the research tour-de-force that is Laura de Magistris and colleagues (see here). I'd be really quite interested to see if they looked at gut permeability in those MIA offspring monkeys too....

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* Bauman MD. et al. Activation of the Maternal Immune System During Pregnancy Alters Behavioral Development of Rhesus Monkey Offspring. Biol Psychiatry. 2013 Sep 4. pii: S0006-3223(13)00673-2. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.06.025.

** Bauman MD. et al. Maternal antibodies from mothers of children with autism alter brain growth and social behavior development in the rhesus monkey. Transl Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 9;3:e278. doi: 10.1038/tp.2013.47.

*** Caskey M. et al. Synthetic double-stranded RNA induces innate immune responses similar to a live viral vaccine in humans. J Exp Med. 2011 Nov 21;208(12):2357-66. doi: 10.1084/jem.20111171.

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ResearchBlogging.org Bauman MD, Iosif AM, Smith SE, Bregere C, Amaral DG, & Patterson PH (2013). Activation of the Maternal Immune System During Pregnancy Alters Behavioral Development of Rhesus Monkey Offspring. Biological psychiatry PMID: 24011823