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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Oct;25(7):1393-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.04.006. Epub 2011 Apr 18.

Increased serum osteopontin levels in autistic children: relation to the disease severity.

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Autism Research and Treatment Center, AL-Amodi Autism Research Chair, Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Autoimmunity to brain may play an etiopathogenic role in autism. Osteopontin is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that has been shown to play an important role in various autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases. Osteopontin induces IL-17 production by T-helper 17 lymphocytes, the key players in the pathogenesis of autoimmune disorders. Anti-osteopontin treatment reduces the clinical severity of some autoimmune neuroinflammatory diseases by reducing IL-17 production. We are the first to measure serum osteopontin levels, by ELISA, in 42 autistic children in comparison to 42 healthy-matched children. The relationship between serum osteopontin levels and the severity of autism, which was assessed by using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), was also studied. Autistic children had significantly higher serum osteopontin levels than healthy controls (P<0.001). Increased serum osteopontin levels were found in 80.95% (34/42) of autistic children. Children with severe autism had significantly higher serum osteopontin levels than patients with mild to moderate autism (P=0.02). Moreover, serum osteopontin levels of autistic patients had significant positive correlations with CARS (P=0.007). In conclusions, serum osteopontin levels were increased in many autistic children and they were significantly correlated to the severity of autism. Further wide-scale studies are warranted to shed light on the etiopathogenic role of osteopontin in autism and to investigate its relation to IL-17 and brain-specific auto-antibodies, which are indicators of autoimmunity, in these patients. The therapeutic role of anti-osteopontin antibodies in amelioration of autistic manifestations should also be studied.

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