Last week, another Baby Siblings Research Consortium Project (BSRC) published an intriguing finding which also has the bonus of being a replication. Mark Shen, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found higher levels of extra axial fluid in the brains of infants who went on to later be diagnosed with autism, and even higher levels in those with severe autism symptoms. Extra-axial fluid is also called cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that holds the brain steady in your head. Other functions of extra-axial fluid and what this means on how it may contribute to autism risk are described in the podcast. He not only explains the findings, but conveys what families should know about them and how they can help with early identification of ASD.
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.