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Lipid levels during pregnancy are shown to have an impact on autism

York U study links elevated lipids in pregnancy with autism.
York U study links elevated lipids in pregnancy with autism.
Photo by: York University

A groundbreaking study released by York University has found that an abnormal level of lipid molecules can affect the way 2 key neural pathways interact during early prenatal brain development. It is believed that this can trigger autism.

The researchers also found that exposure to chemicals in some cosmetics and over-the-counter medications can affect these lipid levels.

Lead researcher Christine Wong says that higher levels of the lipid molecule Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) can change the behavior of neural stem cells, and that this could "affect how the brain is organized and wired." Researchers also found that PGE2 can also increase the expression of several other genes, all of which have been implicated in autism studies.

According to Professor Dorota Crawford a member of the York Autism Alliance research Group "Our study provides some molecular evidence that the environment likely disrupts certain events occurring in early brain development and contributes to autism.”

Many experts consider autism to be the primary disorder of the brain. Current estimates are that autism affects 1 in 68 children. That is up 30-percent from the numbers that were reported just 2 years ago. The disorder displays symptoms such as impaired language skills, repetitive behavior, and difficulties with social interaction.

According to Professor Crawford environmental factors like exposure to infection, exposure to chemicals and drugs, and dietary insufficiencies can change the expression of some genes and contribute to autism. She also stated that the York study "provides some molecular evidence that the environment likely disrupts certain events occurring in early brain development and contributes to autism.” Recent studies have incresingly shown that environmental factors affect vlunerable gense, especially during pregnancy.