The potential role of epigenetics in the sex differences in autism

On Tuesday November 15th, Tracy Bale from University of Pennsylvania provided an insightful analysis of sex differences in behavioral, physiological and molecular outcomes following prenatal stress.  She outlined the potential epigenetic markers that may lead to resilience in female offspring which has direct implications for autism.  However, prior to Dr. Bale’s presentation, Donna Werling from UCSF briefly outlined the genetic and behavioral data so far about females with autism and why there is a 4:1 ratio in males to females getting a diagnosis.  This webinar is part of the Environmental Epigenetics of Autism Webinar Series co-organized by Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and the Escher Family Fund for Autism.

What the Trump presidency could mean for autism families

On early Wednesday morning, the United States woke up to the news that the new president was Donald Trump.  While he hasn’t taken office yet, this podcast reviews his statement on his website or in his Contract with America, as well as thing  published or stated by him or his campaign on his website or in an interview.  The following are covered:  health coverage, Medicaid, mental health services, science and the environment, and education.   The focus is now the proposed changes and policies could affect families with autism.  There is also a special message at the end from David Mandell about how families can deal with the changes ahead.  A transcript of the podcast is available here.

Where are all the girls with autism? Live from the Seaver Center Conference

Hear what you missed if you were unable to attend the Seaver Autism Conference on September 25th!  Dr. David Skuse discusses “where are all the girls with autism”, summarizing evidence that some girls with high verbal IQ and autism might be missed, suggesting genes associated with high IQ may be protective against a diagnosis until adolescence.  Also, ASF grantee Dr. Jennifer Foss-Feig describes how biomarkers can be used to improve personalized medicine.  Finally, a summary and review of the new air pollution systematic review and meta analysis.  Limited evidence does not equal none, and air pollution is a real problem.  Here is a link to the paper:  http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0161851.  All in 12 minutes.

Environment or genetics in autism symptomatology? How about both?

This week I am in Minneapolis at an incredibly important meeting of Medical Examiners to pitch them the importance of collecting brain tissue for Autism BrainNet.  While I was here I noticed a new study on the blogs that is important for families to hear about.  It focused on a known environmental exposure in established genetic groups.  The authors of the study, led by Dr. Sara Webb at University of Washington, showed that an environmental exposure can modify symptoms in genetically susceptible narrow subgroups.  This is the sort of research that will better describe how environmental exposures are affecting autism risk.   Thank you to Dr. Sara Webb for your perspectives and interpretation of the data!

Old exposures, new diagnoses and more efficient screening for toddlers

This week, two important studies came out on different topics in autism research.  In the first study, an exposure which has been around for decades, PCB’s, a toxic industrial chemical which has been banned from manufacture or use for the past few decades, was linked to autism.  This dispels the myth that only exposures that have been introduced since the observance in the rise in diagnoses are relevant for study.  First author Kristen Lyall gives her perspective. Here is a website on how to avoid PCBs even though they have been banned.

Second, screening for autism in pediatricians offices has always been challenging.  Patients get 10 minutes at most with their doctor, these doctors have to fit in an hours worth of assessments in this time.  So how can you get them to conduct a screening for autism and add in extra questions?  Kennedy Krieger Institute published on a way that seems to work without sacrificing quality.  Hear more about both on this week’s podcast.

Making sense of toxic chemicals and risk of autism

On Monday the 1st, a consensus statement from over 50 expert scientists was published that collectively emphasized the link between toxic chemicals and neurodevelopment disorders like autism, learning disabilities and ADHD.  In this podcast, we want to help you understand why this is relevant for autism.  If you want to learn more about this statement and read about specific actions that can be taken to minimize exposures to these chemicals, go to www.projecttendr.com.  We will also be having a live chat about it on July 11th at 2PM EST.