The Power of “Omics” for Environmental Epidemiology of ASD

Thursday, May 12, 2016: 12:00 PM
Hall B (Baltimore Convention Center)
M. D. Fallin, Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, JHBSPH, Baltimore, MD

 There is clear evidence that both genetic and environmental factors influence ASD risk. However, much more work has been done in genetic discovery and resulting mechanistic insights.  The “omics” revolution offers multiple opportunities to combine efforts and inform environmental discovery, which is critical for policy and prevention efforts regarding modifiable risk.


To review the current opportunities for integration of “omics” measurement into studies of the environmental risk factors for ASD.


Large scale measurement of the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome, and metabolome are now feasible for epidemiologic studies. Now, epidemiologic methods must be applied with specific goals in mind for the integration of these measures into questions of environmental risk.


Associations have been observed between environmental exposures and epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, and there is some evidence for the influence of the genome on environmental susceptibility.  We provide a framework for how to integrate these pairwise relationships to provide insight on mechanistic questions for environmental epidemiology of ASD as well as to develop potential biomarkers that can enable even larger scale environmental epidemiology investigation.  We also present the methodologic challenges that must be overcome to realize the potential of such integration.


The omics revolution is a great opportunity to maximize discovery in environmental health through both mechanistic work and development of new biomarkers. There are multiple methodologic challenges to overcome, but these are now surmountable opening the door for important discovery that can have prevention and policy implications.