Prevent Autism? It Just May Be -- And Yes, It's the Environment

Could it possibly be true?  Could they have found a cause for autism? A new study could have important implications for ASD detection and prevention.

A new study says so.  According to newswise.com, "Problems with a key group of enzymes called topoisomerases can have profound effects on the genetic machinery behind brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder (ASD)."

The Web site attributed the significant advance in the hunt for environmental factors behind autism to scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, who made this finding which lends new insights into the disorder’s genetic causes.

"Our study shows the magnitude of what can happen if topoisomerases are impaired,” said senior study author Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor in the Neuroscience Center and the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at UNC. “Inhibiting these enzymes has the potential to profoundly affect neurodevelopment — perhaps even more so than having a mutation in any one of the genes that have been linked to autism.

“This could point to an environmental component to autism,” he continued. “A temporary exposure to a topoisomerase inhibitor in utero has the potential to have a long-lasting effect on the brain, by affecting critical periods of brain development. ”

This study could also explain why some people with mutations in topoisomerases develop autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, newswise.com reports.

"Topiosomerases are enzymes found in all human cells," the site notes. "Their main function is to untangle DNA when it becomes overwound, a common occurrence that can interfere with key biological processes."

What's really interesting is that most of the known topoisomerase-inhibiting chemicals are used as chemotherapy drugs.

“If there are additional compounds like this in the environment, then it becomes important to identify them,” Zylka told newswise.com. “That’s really motivating us to move quickly to identify other drugs or environmental compounds that have similar effects — so that pregnant women can avoid being exposed to these compounds.”

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