What causes Autism?
This is a question often asked as the prevalence of autism, a life-long neurodevelopmental disorder with a pervasive impact on social communication and behaviors, has rapidly increased over the last two decades. Once reported to be 3-4 in 10,000 and now estimated to be 1 in 68 individuals in the United States, autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has an enormous impact on families, communities, society as a whole, and public health policies that must address the life-long needs of individuals with ASD.
Despite the rapid rise in the number of cases reported and the significant contribution of genetics to risk for ASD, there is still very little understanding of its causes and life-long progression as well as the many factors, both physiological and environmental, that may increase risk for ASD. Currently, there are neither validated biomarkers for diagnostic screening nor pharmacologic therapies specific for the core symptoms of ASD, specifically deficits in social interactions/communication and abnormal or maladaptive behaviors.
Yet, progress is being made in identifying genes, metabolic pathways, and cellular/tissue functions disrupted by autism, and there is evidence that targeted treatment of some of the genetically-defined conditions or dysfunctional pathways has led to improved outcomes for subgroups of individuals with ASD.
In this book, experts review cutting-edge research in multiple areas of study, and moreover provide their perspectives on future studies that are needed to move the field forward, citing the challenges involved as well as predicted translational (practical) outcomes of such research.
In her latest book "Frontiers in Autism Research: New Horizons for Diagnosis and Treatment" published by World Scientific, author Valerie Hu focuses on emerging and expanding areas of research on ASD and their potential to lead to better diagnosis and more effective therapies. These areas include innovative, integrative approaches to genetic/genomic analyses and investigations of epigenetic contributions, including the role of noncoding RNAs, DNA methylation, alternative splicing, RNA editing, and faulty translation in gene regulation, dysregulation of metabolic and immune functions, co-occurring disorders, and hormonal and gene-environment interactions that may increase risk for ASD. These unique forward-looking features are designed to provide focus and "food for thought" for future studies on autism, while executive summaries succinctly highlight the major take-home messages of each chapter.
More information about the book can be found at: