A new study provides more evidence of a gut-brain relationship in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In intestinal epithelial tissue from patients with ASD, researchers observed reduced expression of barrier-forming cellular components and higher expression of molecules that increase intestinal permeability. In postmortem brain tissue from patients with ASD, they observed altered expression of genes associated with blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity and function in association with neuroinflammation.
"Our study is the first to explore mechanistically the molecular signature of defects in the gut epithelial barrier and the BBB in ASD," Maria Rosaria Fiorentino, PhD, of Harvard Medical School and the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital East in Charlestown, told Medscape Medical News.
"Our findings suggest there is a molecular mechanism linking the gut and brain that involves both the intestine and the BBB in the pathophysiology of ASD. Elucidating the molecular basis of gut and BBB impairment in ASD will be the first step toward the design of more targeted and effective therapies. If we can prevent alterations of the function of these barriers, we may be able to treat the GI symptoms and/or autism core symptoms in the ASD population," she added.