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Air Pollution Linked to Autism

Update Date: Dec 02, 2013 02:48 PM EST

People who carry a genetic disposition for the neurodevelopmental disorder are more prone to develop autism in air polluted environment, a recent study suggests.

“Our research shows that children with both the risk genotype and exposure to high air pollutant levels were at increased risk of autism spectrum disorder compared to those without the risk genotype and lower air pollution exposure,” said the study’s first author, Heather E. Volk in a press release.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability. It is characterized by problems like communication and social interaction problems. According to the estimates of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 88 children in United States is suffering from this disorder.

“Although gene-environment interactions are widely believed to contribute to autism risk, this is the first demonstration of a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk,” said Daniel B. Campbell, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, in a press release. He is also study’s senior author.

“The MET gene variant has been associated with autism in multiple studies, controls expression of MET protein in both the brain and the immune system, and predicts altered brain structure and function. It will be important to replicate this finding and to determine the mechanisms by which these genetic and environmental factors interact to increase the risk for autism,” he added.

Recent study shows that ASD is highly heritable and genetics plays an important contributing factor. As of present, this disorder is incurable.

The study is scheduled to appear in the January 2014 edition of journal Epidemiology.

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