Bright future for children with autoimmune disorders

14 July 2014
brain autoimmunity

In a discovery that could help many thousands of children around the world, researchers at the Kids Research Institute have discovered a new disorder that may explain why some children suddenly develop movement and psychaitric problems.

After years of research, Associate Professor Russell Dale and Dr Fabienne Brilot-Turville, of the Institute for Neuroscience and Muscle Research, have identified a new kind of antibody that binds to an important protein in the brain.

This protein, called dopamine 2 receptor, controls movement, emotion and behaviour. A new test can now detect the antibody against dopamine-2 receptor – allowing doctors to diagnose the cause of the children’s symptoms and use immune therapy to remove the antibody and allow them to recover.

The antibody is also present in children with chronic conditions such as Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, opening exciting possibilities for future treatments in those who have an autoimmune cause of their disorders.

Already, a few children have been treated successfully to remove the antibodies.

One of them is Natalia Neskoski, who came to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead when she was three after nearly two years of unsuccessful tests and treatments for her balance problems.

Associate Professor Dale put Natalia onto oral steroid treatment and intravenous immunoglobulin. Within a few months her symptoms were completely gone, and 18 months later there was still no sign of the antibody in her blood.

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