Previous studies by USC researchers Heather Volk and Daniel Campbell found links between autism and air pollution exposure for pregnant women and infants. This one looked specifically at the MET gene - which researchers have already linked to autism - and how it's affected when exposed to high amounts of air pollution, finding an augmented risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in children.
“Although gene-environment interactions are widely believed to contribute to autism risk, this is the first demonstration of a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk,” said Daniel B. Campbell, Ph.D., the study’s senior author.
Children who had the altered MET gene and lived in high pollution areas, had triple the risk for autism than children who had neither of the risk factors.
The research paper, “Autism spectrum disorder: Interaction of air pollution with the MET receptor tyrosine kinase gene,” will be published in the journal Epidemiology in January.