Home > Science, Uncategorized > Thank You for Supporting our Pioneering Research

Thank You for Supporting our Pioneering Research

Guest post by epidemiologist Daniele Fallin, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

My work focuses on autism and understanding how genes and environments interplay to cause this developmental disorder. Much of this work is funded by federal grants, but there can be gaps in what these grants can support, especially in new fields of research. Support from Autism Speaks has been amazing in helping fill these gaps.

In particular, Autism Speaks provided important support for two of my current projects. The funding is allowing us to study families with autism and, so, gain insights into  interactions between autism risk genes and environment exposures.

The Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) is a national study of families that have at least one child on the autism spectrum and anticipate having more children. By following these high-risk families we seek to identify causes and risk factors—be they genetic, environmental or a combination of both. Information is regularly collected from mothers enrolled in the study, and their newborns receive free developmental assessments until 3 years of age.

The second study is a genome-wide investigation of DNA methylation, or epigenetics. It will allow us to investigate how various environmental exposures can affect gene expression in ways that increase—or potentially decrease—the risk of autism. This study will place special focus on environmental exposures during crucial periods of prenatal brain development.

Autism Speaks realizes the importance of these new areas of research and has put forth great effort to ensure we can explore and, hopefully, uncover risk factors for autism that, over the long term, may lead to prevention and improved treatments.

We continue to recruit study participants. Specifically we are enrolling mothers who have one or more children with autism and who may become pregnant or who are currently less than 28 weeks pregnant. They must live near an EARLI research site (California, Maryland or Pennsylvania). For more details, please visit www.EARLIstudy.org or our Facebook page.

On behalf of the EARLI research team, I want to extend a special thanks to Autism Speaks supporters for helping make this pioneering research possible.

Explore more of the studies our supporters are funding with our Grant Search Engine. And read more autism research news and perspective on the science page.

  1. January 10, 2012 at 6:10 am

    I find this so interesting as my dad, born in 1898, had classic symptoms of autism (our family doctor agreed) – my son was diagnosed as profoundly autistic and, in my mid-seventies, so was I, but obviously in a much milder form than my son. As a child my dad was locked in a bare room, so he could not harm himself on furniture, and fed on bread broken up into warm milk – which was the standard treatment given to so-called ‘invalid’ children in those days. No wonder there was a lot of rickets about! However, he enlisted in the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Great War and served successfully throughout. My son was described by doctors as a ‘write-off’ when he was a child, yet in later years he graduated from University. Life is so strange isn’t it?

    • January 11, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Thank you for the inspiration, Ms. MacArthur!

  2. Patti McCloud
    January 10, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Thank you for sharing your story! It allows those of us who fundraise for Autism Speaks to give our supporters a clear picture of where the money goes an how important their continued support is. And more importantly, thanks for dummy-ing it down for us so that we can understand it and share it!

  3. Katie Wright
    January 10, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I very much hope some important environmental triggers are discovered here.
    I also hope that the immunization records and adverse responses are being noted.
    Without that information we will continue to chase our tail in pining down environmental causation agents.

    It is concerning that this study is only following multiplex families, who have a more genetically determined cause of autism than singleton families. However maybe this is a small issue. The biggest problem is the specific focus on prenatal factors. Why do this when the vast majority of children are born as typical babies? Almost 50% of ASD babies develop normally and then regress into autism. SO much research has been focused on the prenatal period and so little on postnatal environmental factors. I would bet the ratio is 10:1.

    We have to stop playing it so safe.

  4. Sarah
    January 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    A genome-wide investigation of DNA METHYLATION (or epigenetics)?

    FANTASTIC!!!

    Go, go, go!

  5. January 11, 2012 at 12:21 am

    so great to see. i’ve always thought it was environmental. many things in my case points to this. not genetics here or from immunizations. she was only days old when she showed signs that something was wrong. i have three boys and none have autism and nobody on my husband or my side has anybody with autism. can’t wait. it might take a lot to research the many possibilities. i believe it you start with water and rice as a possibility. why you ask? city water municipalities have chemicals in the water. rice is grown overseas and sent many places. the ground soil from asia wars? hormones and preservatives. insecticides, d.h.t., pesticides. let’s see what they find!

  6. B. A. Travis
    January 25, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I will be very interested to see where this research goes. I was exposed to high doses of raw pharmeceuticals (raw ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin) while I was pregnant with minimal protection (dust mask during dumping of raw materials) Now the company requires tyvek suits and battery powered respirators for the same tasks. I have a son who has autism and the thought has always been in the back of my mind but have never been able to find anything close to what I experienced mostly just studies of women taking the drug regularly in an over the counter fashion.

  7. February 5, 2012 at 5:16 am

    In scratching the surface of genetics in a biology class, I am left wondering about Bovine Growth Hormone, which the FDA approved in 1993, and the rise in rates of autism. Is this something you or anyone else has investigated? I have one child with autism and one with Asperger Syndrome. My last son was on soy formula and soymilk early on and he is “normal”. It just makes me wonder.

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