As neutralizers of microbial agents, antibodies are major contributors to immune competence. Occasionally, however, they act as autoantibodies, which bind to a person’s own tissue, triggering autoimmune disease. In adults, the blood-brain barrier protects the brain against autoantibodies, but that barrier is not fully competent in fetuses, allowing maternal antibodies to penetrate the fetal brain and potentially alter its development. This mechanism may contribute to some cases of autism.
About the speaker:
Betty Diamond is head of the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Diseases at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York. Her research has focused on the induction and pathogenicity of anti-DNA antibodies in systemic lupus erythematosus. She received the American College of Rheumatology’s Distinguished Investigator Award in 2001, the Lee C. Howley Sr. Prize from the Arthritis Foundation in 2002, and the Recognition Award from the National Association of M.D.-Ph.D. Programs in 2004. Diamond was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2006.