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Autism Speaks' first Philip and Faith Geier Autism Environmental Sciences Research grant
Date:1/25/2012

mones can essentially turn genes on or off. Some of these exposures can act much like a mutation to silence a gene or dampen its activity.

On a technical level, Fallin's team will be looking at changes in DNA methylation, an epigenetic process central to gene regulation. By relating this analysis to information on specific environmental conditions during gestation, birth and early childhood, the findings have the potential to identify avoidable risks and provide guidance for earlier diagnosis and improved treatments.

"The Geier Grant is phenomenal because it recognizes that we need to better understand how environmental influences can alter the biology of the brain and body in ways that affect autism risk," Fallin said. "Epigenetics may well be the mechanism by which this interaction occurs. It is also the area of research that brings together scientists who study autism's genetics with those who study environmental influences. It is so vitally important for autism science that we have these two groups working together."

"We share Phil and Dani's excitement about this highly innovative project," added Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. "It will explore in detail, for the first time, whether and how the environment may be influencing gene expression in autism. We hope that this will lead to insights into methods for reducing risk as well as new treatments to improve the lives of those who struggle with autism."

The Autism Speaks' Strategic Plan for Science sets environmental research as a priority, stating: Prevention and treatment of autism through alteration of potential environmental factors is now considered a fundamental goal of research A wide range of environmental factors needs to be vigorously explored, including but not limited to exposure to toxins, vaccines, chemicals, and immune challenges.

Donations totaling over $640,000 have been received for the Geier fund. Individuals, organization
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Contact: Jane E. Rubinstein
jrubinstein@rubenstein.com
212-843-8287
Autism Speaks
Source:Eurekalert  

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Autism Speaks' first Philip and Faith Geier Autism Environmental Sciences Research grant
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