Research Advances > Biomarkers > Immune System Biomarkers

Autism Biomarker Candidates

Autism biomarkers in the immune system

On the basis of accumulating evidence, some researchers suggest that immune system dysfunction plays a role in the development of ASD. To assess the potential of using immune system proteins as a biomarker for autism, a group of scientists measured the concentration of cytokines and chemokines (immune system proteins that act as signaling molecules in the body) in 28 people with high-functioning autism and 28 neurotypical subjects.1 The researchers found that 8 of these immune system proteins were significantly higher in the people with ASD. The authors of the study suggest that abnormal immune response, evaluated by analysis of cytokines and chemokines, taken together, may serve as a biomarker of ASD.

Although this study is promising, the sample size is small and only a small subset of the ASD spectrum was tested. Future studies should address these issues to clarify whether immune system assessment can yield a viable biomarker for ASD.

  1. Suzuki K, Hideo H, Iwata K, Kameno Y, Shimmura C, Kawai S, Yoshihara Y, Wakuda T, Takebayashi K, Takagai S, Matsumoto K, Tsuchiya KJ, Iwata Y, Nakamura K, Tsujii M, Sugiyama T, Mori N (2011) Plasma cytokine profiles in subjects with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. PLoS One6(5):e20470. PMID: 21647375.