Isaac Pessah, Ph.D., from University of California-Davis Center for Children's Environmental Health, was awarded a one-year grant to expand his environmental health work to determine how certain flame retardants (PBDEs) interact with the immune system in ways that may interfere with prenatal development and increase autism risk. Dr. Pessah's study will follow two lines of investigation. Animals exposed to PBDE during gestation will be evaluated focusing on behavioral endpoints relevant to autism and immunohistochemical findings. In addition blood samples will be taken from children affected and not affected by ASD to evaluate immune system response to PBDEs. This study seeks better understanding of the mechanisms involved in disruption of the immune system in ASD, especially environmental factors which exacerbate or trigger an immune response. Findings may not only identify modifiable risk factors, but better focus research attention on more targeted biomarkers.
Additional funding was provided to extend the scope of several ongoing studies of significance to Autism Speaks. Martin Knapp, Ph.D., from the London School of Economics, Kings College London and David Mandell, Sc.D., of the University of Pennsylvania will add a second year to their joint effort to update current estimates of autism's economic costs, taking into account the effects on economic costs and benefits of intensive preschool behavioral interventions and vocational interventions that increase independence during the transition to adulthood.
As part of Autism Speaks "Move the Needle" i
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