Link Found Between Mothers with Diabetes Anti-Fetal Brain Autoantibodies

Anti-fetal brain autoantibodies shown to be specific to some mothers of children with autism.

Women with type 2 diabetes are 3 times more likely to have anti-fetal brain autoantibodies, especially women whose children are more severely autistic.

During a study published in Autism Research, researchers examined 227 mother and child pairs who were a part of the Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment study (CHARGE).

The CHARGE study examined the environmental and genetic causes of autism, and researchers found that autism-specific maternal autoantibodies were more prevalent in mothers who were moderately overweight, diabetic, or had hypertensive disorders compared with healthy mothers.

Furthermore, 145 of the mothers had children who were on the severe end of the autism spectrum. Of these 145 mothers, those diagnosed with type 2 or gestational diabetes were almost 3 times more likely to have autism specific anti-fetal brain antibodies than healthy mothers, according to the study.

“There are several take-away messages from this study,” said researcher Paula Krakowiak. “One is that metabolic conditions are characterized by increased inflammation and a number of studies have established links between metabolic conditions during pregnancy and neurodevelopmental conditions in children. Therefore, it is also reasonable to presume that these conditions may alter the maternal immune tolerance to the fetus during pregnancy.

“Another is to encourage women who are planning a pregnancy to achieve a healthier pre-pregnancy weight through changes in diet and physical activity, and if a mother was diagnosed with a metabolic condition to keep a closer watch of the baby's development,” Krakowiak continued. “We need to look into how their health is being managed, and how we can help them to be healthier.”