Discovering the Environmental Factors That Contribute to Autism Risk
April 11, 2018
Just a few years ago, Dr. Nathaniel Snyder launched the Exposure Science Lab as part of the Modifiable Risk Factors research program. The lab focuses on measuring chemicals in the body, including those that come from the environment and those that are made internally. This complex mix of chemicals is referred to as the human “exposome.” Dr. Snyder’s lab is the only lab of its kind housed in an autism research center.
In addition to characterizing the exposome, Dr. Snyder’s lab works to learn how the exposome influences neurodevelopment. Currently, he is studying the chemical makeup of meconium, a baby’s first bowel movement. Meconium starts accumulating around the 12th week of pregnancy and is passed after birth, providing a unique time-averaged view of the chemicals reaching a developing baby during mid-to-late gestation as the brain develops. “Analyzing meconium also helps us capture exposures and gestational events that are transient but leave a lasting mark on the in utero chemical environment.”
This study has the potential to give new insights into the prenatal exposome, which could reveal parts of the largely unknown environmental contribution to autism.