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Mitochondrial Deficits Found in Children with Severe Autism

Date Published: 
May 27, 2014

A small study has shown that children with severe autism have problems with infection-fighting cells called granulocytes. Their granulocytes are less efficient at fighting infection than the same cells in children who don't have autism. The granulocytes of the children with autism had a dysfunction in the mitochondria, the part of the cell that generates energy, among other things.

“Granulocytes fight cellular invaders like bacteria and viruses by producing highly reactive oxidants, toxic chemicals that kill microorganisms. Our findings show that in children with severe autism the level of that response was both lower and slower," said researcher Eleonora Napoli, project scientist in the Department of Molecular Biosciences in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in a press release.1

The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, included 10 children with severe autism, ages 2 to 5, and 10 children who were developing typically.2

This is the second study by these researchers that found mitochondrial problems in an immune cell of children with autism.

The study received funding from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative and National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences.