“If epigenetic changes are being passed from fathers to their children, we should be able to detect them in sperm,” says coauthor Daniele Fallin. Dr. Fallin directs the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She and her team receive Autism Speaks funding to investigate early environmental influences on autism risk. This includes research that may help identify preventive measures and targets for future treatments.
“These findings offer tantalizing clues about the way risk associated with environmental factors can be transmitted from father to child,” comments Andy Shih, Autism Speaks’ senior vice president for scientific affairs. “It adds to our growing understanding and appreciation of the complexity of gene-environment interaction in autism etiology. It also suggests possible ways to identify relevant environmental risk factors in future studies.” Dr. Shih was not directly involved in the research.