Maternal Risk Factors for Autism and Related Disorders in the Nurses’ Health Study 2

Current estimates suggest 1-6 children per 1000 have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and autism itself is the 6th most commonly classified disability in the United States (Fombonne et al, 2005; CDC 2006). There is still little known about the mechanisms underlying ASDs. Though genetics are known to play a role, interest in environmental, and potentially modifiable, factors that may be involved in these conditions has grown. The Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II) cohort, a large cohort of female United States nurses, represents a unique opportunity to prospectively investigate a wide range of environmental factors, including dietary and reproductive factors, for risk of ASDs in the offspring. We are currently comparing affected children from the NHS II cohort, with healthy children born in the same years, through a U.S. Department of Defense funded 3 year study.  Study methods include use of a questionnaire assessing perinatal complications, blood/urine collection for analysis of heavy metal toxins, saliva sample collection for DNA analysis, and comparision of available NHS II nutritional questionnaires.  Our primary aim is to identify maternal risk factors for ASDs, including maternal dietary, environmental and genetic factors.


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Prospective Study of Restless Leg Syndrome

The goal of this study is to prospectively investigate risk factors (obesity, blood donation, and genetic components) and clinical consequences of restless legs syndrome among ~100,000 men and women.