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Examining Environmental Contributors to Autism

December 12, 2017
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are a large class of environmentally ubiquitous chemicals that interfere with normal hormone-dependent processes in individuals. Exposure to EDCs in utero during critical stages of development can have lasting neurological and other physiological influences on the developing fetus, and such exposures are associated with multiple developmental conditions including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability, ADHD, and behavioral disorders.

The laboratory of Dr. Valerie Hu, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences aims to personalize diagnosis and treatment of ASD by developing a better understanding of the underlying biology giving rise to different manifestations of autism through the identification of altered genes, pathways, and gene regulatory mechanisms. At 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern on December 12, 2017, we heard Dr. Hu present her team’s research on the influence of environmental factors on RORA (retinoic acid-related orphan receptor alpha), the “master regulator” of many autism risk genes. Dr. Hu specifically discussed the effects of exposure to atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world (with over 80 million pounds applied in the US in 2015), and how alterations caused by environmental exposures may be transmitted across generations.

 

Featured Speaker

Valerie HuValerie Hu, PhD, is Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at George Washington University's School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The long-term goals of Dr. Hu's laboratory are personalized diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). They aim to achieve these goals by developing a better understanding of the underlying biology giving rise to sex bias as well as to different manifestations of autism through the identification of altered genes, pathways, and gene regulatory mechanisms specific to different subtypes of ASD. To accomplish these goals, they have taken a systems approach to ASD using integrative genomics methods, which have led to the discovery of novel candidate genes relevant to pathobiological processes involved in ASD and to the identification of potential diagnostic biomarkers at multiple levels: gene expression, microRNA, DNA methylation, and genetics. Current and future studies are directed towards further identification of subtype-specific genes for targeted therapeutics (i.e., precision medicine) and environmental factors influencing risk for ASD. Dr. Hu holds a PhD from the California Institute of Technology and a BS from the University of Hawaii.

 

This webinar is one in a monthly series sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s EDC Strategies Partnership. The CHE EDC Strategies Partnership is chaired by Carol Kwiatkowski (TEDX), Sharyle Patton (Commonweal), and Genon Jensen (HEAL). Read more about this partnership

 

This webinar was moderated by Sharyle Patton, director of the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center. It lasted for 30 minutes and was recorded for our call and webinar archive.