Exploiting genetics to understand environmental risks for autism

On March 13th, Dr. Mark Zylka from UNC gave a 60 minute overview of how researchers are using autism-relevant genetic mutations in cells to start to understand the interactions between genetics and thousands of environmental factors on gene expression.  He pointed out the convergence of pathways in how genes and these environmental factors worked in the brain, and they included:  neuroinflammation, early brain development, turning neurons on and off, and cell signaling.  Dr. Valerie Hu from George Washington University commented on the important impact of these results and perspective from her lab studying epigenetically modified genes, like RORA, which also may be sensitive to common chemicals found in our environment.  The entire webinar, including the questions that they were able to answer from participants, is found here.

2 thoughts on “Exploiting genetics to understand environmental risks for autism

  1. As a Speech-Language Pathologist for 45 yrs, I noticed a big upsurge of children with characteristics of Autism in the late 80’s. I’ve often questioned what was different before the 80’s when it was rare to see a child with the social-communication and language differences seen in the ASD population. The answers kept returning to environmental changes which have only gotten worse in the past 30 yrs- including a sea of toxins surrounding the pregnant mother and vulnerable infants- plastics, processed foods, pesticides, flame retardants, pollution, chemically treated furniture, home building materials and on and on. I’ve not seen precautonary principles applied to women of child bearing ages to avoid where possible toxins- in food, home renovations, children’s clothing and toys, plastics even like stroller covers. If proven later there is no relationship nothing is lost (child is healthier) but also may prevent the genetic changes scientists are now discovering.

  2. Where can I get a meditation tape for my kids 8 yrs. 15 yrs. Both with ADHD, Autism,anger management, and little one has cerebral pasley. I want them to learn how to meditate. Also they both have sleep issues. Pills don’t even work. The 15 year old gets 4-5 hours a night when he wakes up it’s 0-120 all day afternoon and night he’s in bed by 9 still up at 11. Dressess for school at 4:30 The bus doesn’t come until 7. I need help thank you Lillian blute.

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