Central to the idea of babyQ is that mothers have a great deal of control over which genes are turned on in their babies during pregnancy. This concept of gene control is called epigenetics. At babyQ we want to help pregnant moms turn on their child’s best genes. Now in a scientific report we see evidence that this really works and may help autism prevention.
Autism is spreading like wild fire in America. While it was barely heard of back in the 70’s and 80’s, it is now estimated that autism or autism spectrum disorders like Asperger’s, affects 1 in 65 children born in the United States. How did this happen? Are genes involved? How could so many mutations happen in 30 years to go from a rare disorder to one so common?
In the March 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the San Diego California School of Medicine revealed photos of brain tissue analysis. These photos demonstrate the disruption of proper brain formation in autistic children.
Postmortem analysis of autistic brain tissue revealed patch-like areas of disorganized neurons. Arrows show a patch of decreased or absent expression of genetic markers across multiple layers of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Credit: Rich Stoner, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
The study’s lead author, Eric Courchesne, PhD found that in the brains of children with autism, key genetic markers were absent in brain cells in multiple layers. “This defect,” Courchesne said, “indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells — something that begins in prenatal life — had been disrupted.”
It is important that we note that Doctor Courchesne states that something happened during prenatal life while the child was still in the womb. That is precisely what happens when bad genes get turned on and good genes turned off. What factors could do this?
The first things doctors think about when the baby’s development is abnormal are environmental exposures like alcohol, recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, tobacco and even prescription medications. Impaired brain development can also occur if the mother is not eating the right foods or taking her prenatal vitamins and getting enough essential nutrients like vitamin D and DHA fish oil. When we conceived of babyQ 4 years ago we knew this type of evidence, validating our approach to a healthy pregnancy was coming. That was one of our motivations; to design a simple system for pregnant moms and help them deliver a healthy baby and reduce the tide of autism afflicting America. Pregnant mothers can use babyQ to stay on the right path to a healthy pregnancy, baby and childhood.
N Engl J Med 2014; 370:1209-1219
Photo Credit: BigStock Photo