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March 29, 2023 | Written by Dr. Robb Wesselingh. Edited by Dr Mastura Monif, Dr Loretta Piccenna, Ms Tiffany Rushen, Ms Amanda Wells (consumer representative) Ms Sasha Ermichina (consumer representative), and Ms. Michelle Mykytowycz.


A message from IAES Blog Staff:

It is our honor and pleasure to present to all of you an overview of Peripheral monocytes and soluble biomarkers in autoimmune encephalitis. This overview is by the esteemed team at Monash University in Australia & lead by Dr. Mastura Monif, who is a member of IAES’ Medical Advisory Board.

We are proud to be in collaboration with Dr. Monif and her team in the Australian Autoimmune Encephalitis Consortium Project as we work closely with them to best support AE patients, caregivers, and their families.

You can find out more about the Australian Autoimmune Encephalitis Consortium and its efforts to help those with AE and their families via the following link:


Peripheral monocytes and soluble biomarkers in autoimmune encephalitis

Source: R Wesselingh, S Griffith, J Broadley, D Tarlinton, K Buzzard, U Seneviratne, H Butzkueven, TJ O’Brien, M Monif, Peripheral monocytes and soluble biomarkers in autoimmune encephalitis, Journal of Autoimmunity, 2023; 135


Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is a condition in which inflammation occurs in various regions of the brain. In AE a person’s immune system produces antibodies (proteins) that mistakenly targets components of the person’s own neurons (nerve structures). This can result in inflammation and nerve tissue damage. As a result, a person with AE can present with different neurological symptoms including seizures (sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain) and memory problems. There are different types of AE based on which protein the immune system is mistakenly targeting. Two of the most common types of AE are:

  • NMDAR AE – antibodies targeting a brain protein called N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor or NMDAR and
  • LGI-1 AE – antibodies targeting a brain protein called leucine-rich, glioma inactivated-1 or LGI-1

While we know antibodies play a key role in the disease, we do not know what changes occur in other parts of the immune system during the course of AE.

The innate immune system is a part of the immune system that acts as a broad first line of defence against foreign invaders to the body like viruses and bacteria. This system can often start or increase inflammation in the body as a protective mechanism. Monocytes are a major type of cell in the innate immune system that drive this response. Monocytes can alert and activate other parts of the immune system through release of small signalling proteins. These small signalling proteins can be released into the blood and tissues and are called cytokines. In AE it is unknown whether the innate immune system or monocytes play a role in the disease.

For this research, we set out to find out answers to following –

  1. Are monocytes in people with AE different than in healthy people?
  2. Is there other evidence of inflammation in the blood of people with AE?
  3. Does the level of inflammation in AE determine disease severity?
  4. Are the inflammatory changes the same in different types of AE?

How we did this work

We recruited 40 people with AE and 28 healthy volunteers who provided blood samples. These blood samples were evaluated in the laboratory for:

  • Characteristics of the monocytes (whether they show signs of being active and more inflammatory), and
  • Levels of different cytokines in the blood that may show increased activity of the immune system and increased inflammation

These findings were then compared between people with AE and the healthy volunteers to see if there were any differences. We also compared these findings between people with different types and severities of AE.

What were the interesting things we found

  • We found that a certain type of monocyte known to play a key role in inflammation in other diseases are increased in number in people with AE compared with healthy volunteers
  • We also identified that certain cytokines (IL-6, TNF-a) that are important in starting and maintaining inflammation are also increased in people with AE compared with healthy volunteers
  • These changes were present in both severe and mild AE but were much stronger in people with LGI-1 antibody associated AE.

What do these findings mean?

This research showed that there is ongoing inflammation in the blood of people with AE. Also, monocytes and the innate immune system may play a role in the disease.

The research could help clinicians to –

  1. Identify new treatments that target monocytes and the innate immune system
  2. Use the inflammatory changes identified as a way to diagnose and monitor the disease.


For more information and resources from Dr. Monif and her group at the Australian Autoimmune Encephalitis Consortium Project, visit this link here. To download a plain language PDF of the paper summarized in this blog, click the button below:


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International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES), home of the AEWarrior®, is the only Family/Patient-centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey. Your donations are greatly appreciated and are the direct result of IAES’ ability to develop the first product in the world to address the needs of patients, Autoimmune Encephalitis Trivia Playing Cards. Every dollar raised allows us to raise awareness and personally help Patients, Families, and Caregivers through their Journey with AE to ensure that the best outcomes can be reached. Your contribution to our mission will help save lives and improve the quality of life for those impacted by AE.   Trivia Playing cards 3 FB 500x419 - Peripheral monocytes and soluble biomarkers in autoimmune encephalitis For this interested in face masks, clothing, mugs, and other merchandise, check out our AE Warrior Store!  This online shop was born out of the desire for the AE patient to express their personal pride in fighting such a traumatic disease and the natural desire to spread awareness. Join our AE family and help us continue our mission to support patients, families and caregivers while they walk this difficult journey.   AE Warrior Store 300x200 - Peripheral monocytes and soluble biomarkers in autoimmune encephalitis

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Our website is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice. Nothing contained on our website is intended to be used as medical advice. No content is intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice. Although THE INTERNATIONAL AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS SOCIETY  provides a great deal of information about AUTOIMMUNE ENCEPHALITIS, all content is provided for informational purposes only. The International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society  cannot provide medical advice.

International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society is a charitable non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2016 by Tabitha Andrews Orth, Gene Desotell and Anji Hogan-Fesler. Tax ID# 81-3752344. Donations raised directly supports research, patients, families and caregivers impacted by autoimmune encephalitis and to educating healthcare communities around the world. Financial statement will be made available upon request.

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