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Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)
Autism Research Database
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC)

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Project Element Element Description

Project Title

Project Title

Environment-wide association study of autism

Principal Investigator

Principal Investigator

White, Tonya

Description

Description

The cause of autism is thought to involve a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. One approach to understanding the genetic contribution to autism has been to use large samples to investigate multiple genes associated with the disorder. This approach, known as a genome-wide association study, has resulted in several interesting genetic ëhits,í ó the discovery of genes that appear to be associated with autism. However, similar ëenvironment-wideí approaches have never been applied to assess potential environmental factors associated with autism. An environment-wide approach includes testing multiple environmental factors all at one time, rather than evaluating each environmental factor individually. Such an approach offers the opportunity to test the interplay between different environmental factors. Determining environmental factors associated with autism is extremely important because some environmental factors may be directly modifiable. However, environment-wide studies require large populations with systematically collected data covering multiple environmental domains. Tonya White and her team at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands are using a large, prenatal, population-based cohort to study child development in the Netherlands. Between 2002 and 2005, nearly 10,000 pregnant women in Rotterdam chose to participate in the study, and these mothers and their children have been closely followed since that time. Multiple environmental factors have been systematically collected since prenatal life, including toxins, heavy metals, pollutants, nutritional factors such as fatty acid and folate levels, obstetric complications and numerous other factors, totaling more than 200 relevant variables. The researchers obtained measures of autism symptoms when the children were 6 years old. In addition, as a part of this study, the researchers plan to use maternal blood obtained during pregnancy to assess markers of acute viral infections. Using these environmental variables, Whiteís group plans to perform an environment-wide association study to assess environmental variables associated with autism. They also plan to use machine-learning techniques to derive measures to predict autism risk based on multiple genetic and environmental variables. To ensure that their findings are not the result of chance alone, they plan to replicate their results in an independent sample.

Funder

Funder

Simons Foundation

Fiscal Year Funding

Fiscal Year Funding

125000

Current Award Period

Current Award Period

2015-2017

Strategic Plan Question

Strategic Plan Question

Question 3: What Caused This To Happen And Can This Be Prevented?

Strategic Plan Objective

Strategic Plan Objective

Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 3SH. Support at least three studies of special populations or use existing databases to inform our understanding of environmental risk factors for ASD in pregnancy and the early postnatal period by 2012. Such studies could include: o Comparisons of populations differing in geography, gender, ethnic background, exposure history (e.g., prematurity, maternal infection, nutritional deficiencies, toxins), and migration patterns; and o Comparisons of phenotype (e.g., cytokine profiles), in children with and without a history of autistic regression, adverse events following immunization (such as fever and seizures), and mitochondrial impairment. These studies may also include comparisons of phenotype between children with regressive ASD and their siblings. Emphasis on environmental factors that influence prenatal and early postnatal development is particularly of high priority. Epidemiological studies should pay special attention to include racially and ethnically diverse populations. IACC Recommended Budget: $12,000,000 over 5 years.

Project Link

Project Link

Environment-wide association study of autism (External web link)

Institution

Institution

Erasmus University Medical Center

State/Country

State/Country

Netherlands

Project Number

Project Number

307280

Federal or Private?

Federal or Private?

Private

Received ARRA Funding?

Received ARRA Funding?

No

History/Related Projects

History/Related Projects

N/A

 
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