The organizers of last month’s symposium: “Environmental Epigenetics: New Frontiers in Autism Research” have posted videotapes of its scientific presentations for free viewing at www.autismepigenetics.org.
Nearly a hundred researchers and other participants attended the symposium at the UC-Davis MIND Institute. Autism Speaks, the MIND Institute and the Escher Fund for Autism co-sponsored the event.
Attendees discussed research on the relationship between environmental exposures, gene expression and brain development.
Broadly speaking, epigenetic information controls when and where genes turn on and off. Epigenetic control of gene expression is crucial for normal brain development. A growing body of research suggests that environmentally induced changes to epigenetic chemicals may play a role in some forms of autism.
The meeting’s sessions focused on issues of scientific interest, including whether environmental factors such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals can alter epigenetic information in eggs and sperm in ways that can harm brain development.
In brainstorming sessions, researchers and other members of the autism community discussed potential research projects to address these and other questions relating to role of environmental factors in autism. These avenues of research have implications for the development of treatments and strategies to reduce risk.
Event organizers included Alycia Halladay, Ph.D., Autism Speaks senior director of environmental and clinical sciences, autism advocate Jill Escher and researchers David Crews, Ph.D., Dani Fallin, Ph.D., and Janine LaSalle, Ph.D.
For more perspective on autism and epigenetics, see Dr. Halladay’s related post on Autism Speaks blog.