Exploring Immune Dysfunction in Autism
Thursday, March 21, 2019
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute presents Paul Ashwood, PhD, a professor in the department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology and with the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California at Davis. He earned his PhD at King’s College London where he focused on how environmental exposures cause inflammation in gastrointestinal diseases. He received further research training in stem cell biology at Cancer Research UK and post-doctoral research training on autism at University College London.
Ashwood's overall research interest is in understanding how immune responses are involved in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A complex interplay exists between the nervous and immune systems through a series of shared receptors and ligands, such as cytokines and chemokines, which are produced by immune cells and neurons alike. Such neuro-immune interactions begin early during embryogenesis and persist throughout an individual’s lifetime. Altered immune activity during critical periods of neurodevelopment could lead to neurological dysfunction characteristic of autism. Utilizing several large population based case-control studies, he has shown that children with ASD have increased pro-inflammatory immune activation that is associated with more impaired behaviors. Based on immunological and environmental risk factors identified in epidemiological studies, we have developed novel mouse models with features reminiscent of autism. This reverse translation has helped him investigate how genetic and environmental interactions shape the regulation of gene expression in neurons and microglia in the brain. Furthermore, his recent endeavors explore the brain -immune- gut microbiome axis and comorbidity in children with ASD. This presentation will examine the current status of his research linking the immune response with autism.