Newly published research led by scientists at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) says that exposure to air pollution appears to increase the risk for autism among people who carry a genetic disposition for the disorder.
"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, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of research in preventive medicine and pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
The study, "Autism spectrum disorder: Interaction of air pollution with the MET receptor tyrosine kinase gene," is scheduled to appear in the January 2014 edition of Epidemiology
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability characterized by problems with social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 88 children in the United States has an ASD.
ASD is highly heritable, suggesting that genetics are an important contributing factor, but many questions about its causes remain. There currently is no cure for the disorder.