More than a decade ago, Judy Van de Water, a neuroimmunologist, decided to follow her instincts and research a condition she knew nothing about. Van de Water, now a lead scientist at the University of California Davis MIND Institute—an international research center for neurodevelopmental disorders—had spent her career studying the immune system. In 2000, she stumbled upon a compelling area of research: the immunobiology of autism.
Through studies on mice, rats and rhesus macaques and, eventually, retrospective and prospective analyses of children diagnosed with autism and their mothers, Van de Water identified eight autoantibodies made by a mother’s immune system that appeared to be linked with autism risk if they crossed the placenta. Van de Water, who is also a researcher in the department of internal medicine at UC Davis, refers to her discovery as maternal autoantibody-related autism, or MAR autism. The concept is controversial and became more so when Van de Water developed a test to measure those biomarkers in a woman hoping to conceive, thereby predicting her risk for having a child who develops autism. Continue reading by clicking here. (you will be taken to the online Newsweek article)