The ABC Project
 
 
Gene Environment Interaction in an Autism Birth Cohort
 
Although autism is among the most highly heritable of mental disorders, its genetic basis and pathogenesis remain obscure. Epidemiological data indicate that pre- or perinatal exposure to infection, toxins or other environmental factors may be important in the etiology of ASDs.  These factors may function as environmental triggers in genetically susceptible individuals. They may also be related to de novo mutations or epigenetic effects influencing neurodevelopment.
 
The Norway Autism Birth Cohort (ABC) Study is a prospective study focused on the role of early gene-environment interactions in the pathogenesis of ASD.  The specific aims of the study are to:

  1.   Establish the ABC through ascertainment of ASD cases and selection of controls from the MoBa cohort.

  2.   Identify environmental factors directly or indirectly associated with ASD including: pre- or postnatal infection, maternal and infant immune/autoimmune profiles, very low birth weight and prematurity, other obstetric risk factors in which infections are implicated, and dietary and/or environmental toxins during pregnancy and postnatal life.

  3.   Describe the natural history of clinical, anthropometric, and neurobehavioral features of ASD.
 
Diagnosed autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have increased approximately 10-fold over the past two decades. Whether these disorders are truly more common  or only better recognized remains controversial.  A consensus has emerged that these disorders affect at least 1 in 160 children.  In human terms, ASDs represent a profound burden on affected individuals and their families.  Because ASDs are so widespread, major social and economic demands on society already exceed existing resources.
 
 
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