Pesticide effect on cells may resemble signs of autism

A class of fungicides used on crops can produce changes in mouse brain cells that look strikingly similar to those seen in the brains of people with autism.

The findings, published 31 March in Nature Communications, support the use of ‘transcriptomics’ — a rapid method of analyzing gene expression in cells — for identifying chemicals that trigger patterns of gene expression like those seen in autism. The method could flag chemicals that contribute to the condition1.

“It provides a rational way of finding environmental risk factors,” says study leader Mark Zylka, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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