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Epigenetics and Children with Autism

Introduction

For many of us 'epigenetics' is not a familiar word, and least of all, that it has something to do with autism.  But the fact of the matter is that it has everything to do with autism.  In 1940, the British embryologist and geneticist Conrad Waddington was the first to coin the term epigenetics and he described it as "the interactions of genes with their environment, which bring the phenotype into being."  Today, however, researchers are taking epigenetics one step further and looking at how the DNA methylation is being altered.

Basically, toxic environmental exposures can cause abnormal gene expression which is what we are now seeing with the widespread genetic mutation called the Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR).  According to the study on the "Association of MTHFR Gene Variants with Autism", 98% of children with autism carry at least one copy of the MTHFR.  This means there is a defect in the methylation process which ultimately affects the body's ability to excrete toxins effectively.  See the Methylation/MTHFR section of The Autism Exchange.  The bottom line is environmental factors can trigger changes in our DNA by turning our genes on and off.

Tom Insel MD, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in his blog "The New Genetics of Autism –Why Environment Matters" states that: "Increasing [autism] prevalence suggests environmental factors like chemicals and microbes changing over the past decade, whereas genes change over generations.  Why is anyone looking for genetic causes when there is such a rapid increase in [autism] prevalence?  Shouldn't every research dollar be invested in finding the environmental culprit rather than searching for rare gene variants?"

Historically, we have seen that any organism – plant, animal, or human – has somehow found the ability to adapt to various environmental factors in order to survive.  So it should be of no surprise that today adaptation and survival is what humans and their DNA are doing now.  Time Magazine even published an article called "Why Your DNA Is Not Your Destiny" by John Cloud.  Epigenetics not only affects autism, but also affects so many other medical conditions that are on the rise.  We all have to learn how to adapt in order to survive in this toxic world in which we live.

Related Sites

Epigenetic Mechanisms in Autism
Description:  This site explains how epigenetics turns on and off genes in autism spectrum disorders.

The New Genetics of Autism –Why Environment Matters
Description:  A blog by Tom Insel, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Nutrigenomics: Know Your Genetics
Description:  Dr. Amy Yasko site helping parents learn about Nutrigenomics.

Epigenetic Findings in Autism: New Perspectives for Therapy
Description:  An article from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Environmental Epigenetics Symposium: Environmental Epigenetics: New frontiers in Autism Research
Description:  This is a UC Davis Symposium that took place in 2013. Research from the scientists is available on this site.

Epigenetics and Environmental Chemicals
Description:  Epigenetics investigates heritable changes in gene expression occurring without changes in DNA sequence.

Books

Cancer, Autism and Their Epigenetic Roots (McFarland Health Topics) by John Morrow
Description:  Cancer, Autism and Their Epigenetic Roots is an eye opening account of what epigenetics is and how it is impacting our health by creating many more diseases. The book highlights the role of the environment today in creating epigenetics and how this is changing our gene expression.

The Paleo Epigenetic Cook Book by Beran Parry
Description:  This recipe book contains 420 meal recommendations, 365 recipes, 12 weeks of meal plans, and 12 categories of recipe plans, all designed to help restore the body to its optimum condition.

Epigenetics in Human Disease by Trygve Tollefsbol
Description:  This book gives an excellent explanation of the role of epigenetics in human diseases, cancer, and autoimmune disorders including autism. Evaluations, latest science and breakthrough treatment protocols are all outlined and discussed in these chapters.

Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain by William Walsh PhD
Description:  In this book Dr. Walsh discusses individual nutrient therapy and how epigenetics impact autism.

Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes by Richard C. Francis
Description:  This book gives a very clear understanding of how the new science of epigenetics is a result of our environment that is changing our genes and is even changing the sperm of generations of males who seem to be more affected. The good news is epigenetics is reversible and can be engineered to control the environmental diseases.

Tools

Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide by André Gomes
Description:  Introducing Epigenetics is a newly released book that explores much of the latest information in this exciting new field in biology today. Read about how we develop diseases, hereditary traits and understand the main concepts in “spermism” which is part of the Human Genome Project; all addressed in this book on epigenetics.

Epigenetics in Autism-Spectrum Disorders with Dr. Janine LaSalle
Description:  Dr. Janine LaSalle covers the epigenetics involved in autism-spectrum disorders.

Epigenie; Epigenetics Tools and Databases
Description:  This site provides access to epigenetics tools, databases and resources.

The PALEO Epigenetic DIET BIBLE by Beran Parry
Description:  The PALEO Epigenetic Diet Bible is a revolutionary dietary guide that is based on the environmental factors changing your genes which are also affecting the food you eat. Find out how the Paleo diet is most complementary to your changing genetics. Enjoy the delicious recipes which are very much life changing.

Parent Forums/Blogs

Some forums require you to sign in to Yahoo or Facebook to locate forum names.

Forum/Blog Name:  Questioning Answers: Epigenetics 101 and Autism
Description:  Basic information on Epigenetics, Autism, DNA Methylation.

Forum/Blog Name:  Lifestyle Epigenetics
Description:  This Facebook page helps people to understand what foods (formerly believed to be beneficial) are really doing to our emotions, bodies, behavior, and gene expression. It provides support to those wanting to enhance lifestyles through better choices.

Forum/Blog Name:  Epigenetic Theory of Autism…Autism: Tornado in the Brain
Description:  This blog is an interview taken by Dan E. Burns with William J.Walsh, PhD, the author of Nutrient Power. Dr. Walsh describes his original findings with children with autism at the Pfeiffer Center and how his findings opened new doors for autism in the field of methylation and epigenetics.

Forum/Blog Name:  Epigenetics and Autism
Description:  Epigenetics is the new frontier and it seemingly explains the increasing prevalence of ASD in most of the developed countries. It has the potential to open doors to highly effective treatment mechanisms which may be implemented in the future.