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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Jun;108 Suppl 3:401-4.

The environment as an etiologic factor in autism: a new direction for research.

Author information

  • 1The National Alliance for Autism Research, Princeton, New Jersey, USA; University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. naar@naar.org

Abstract

Autism is one of a group of developmental disorders that have devastating lifelong effects on its victims. Despite the severity of the disease and the fact that it is relatively common (15 in 10,000), there is still little understanding of its etiology. Although believed to be highly genetic, no abnormal genes have been found. Recent findings in autism and in related disorders point to the possibility that the disease is caused by a gene-environment interaction. Epidemiologic studies indicate that the number of cases of autism is increasing dramatically each year. It is not clear whether this is due to a real increase in the disease or whether this is an artifact of ascertainment. A new theory regarding the etiology of autism suggests that it may be a disease of very early fetal development (approximately day 20-24 of gestation). This theory has initiated new lines of investigation into developmental genes. Environmental exposures during pregnancy could cause or contribute to autism based on the neurobiology of these genes.

PMID:
10852835
PMCID:
PMC1637814
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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