Teratology Society

Birth Defects Research, Education, Prevention
Public Affairs Committee, 1767 Business Center Drive, Suite 302, Reston,
Virginia 20190

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 29, 2003 Media Contact: Tonia Masson,
tmasson@teratology.org 703 438-3104, ext. 317

Autism as a Birth Defect

RESTON, VIRGINIA – Patricia Rodier, Ph.D., from the Department of
Obstetrics/Gynecology at University of Rochester, will present data on
autism as a birth defect on Monday, June 23 during the 43rd Annual Meeting
of the Teratology Society at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel in Philadelphia,

Dr. Rodier is the 2003 Josef Warkany Lecturer. Dr. Rodier is a recognized
leader who has performed outstanding research that identifies autism as a
birth defect. In 1993 scientists were still debating whether autism arose
before or after birth. In that year, another member of the Society,
Marilyn Miller, MD, reported evidence that the rate of autism was increased in
people exposed to thalidomide during early embryonic life. For Rodier,
whose expertise is in development of the nervous system, this was a clue
as to how the brain must be altered in autism. With Miller and many other
colleagues, she set out to unravel the causes of the disorder. The team
has studied both environmental causes and genetic causes. Of special interest
are their studies of anatomy and behavior in which humans and animal
models are investigated using the same measures.

Rodier’s studies demonstrated that the autism spectrum disorders could be
studied like other birth defects, and might be prevented. Given the
successful linking of neural tube defects to folic acid deficiencies in
the 1980s, scientists were anxious to tackle another birth defect. Thus, the
new results encouraged increasing government support for research,
including initiatives funding scientists to search for the causes of autism (NICHD),
develop surveillance systems for the disorder (CDC), examine environmental
factors (NIEHS), and study treatments of the disorder (NIMH).

The Josef Warkany award recognizes a scientist who has significantly
contributed to the field of teratology over his/her career. Dr. Warkany
is one of the founders of the Teratology Society who stimulated birth defects
research and prevention.

Individuals who are not members of the Teratology Society are welcome to
attend, if registered for the Annual Meeting. The Annual meeting will be
held June 21-26, 2003. Registration and program information can be
obtained by calling (703) 438-3104 or at

The meeting is open to reporters and public information officers without
reservation fee. Reporters seeking to make arrangements to cover the
meeting should contact Tonia Masson at the Teratology Society at
703-438-3104, ext. 317 or by e-mail: tmasson@teratology.org.

##Teratology Society##
The Teratology Society, founded in 1960, is a multidisciplinary scientific
society, whose international membership includes scientists from academia,
industry, and government, obstetricians, pediatricians, pathologists, and
other health professionals. The Teratology Society addresses public
health issues regarding the causes and biological processes leading to birth
defects and developmental disabilities, as well as their prevention and
treatment. The Society publishes several journals, which report the
results of animal, clinical, and experimental research, as well as reviews on
normal and abnormal development.

Teratology is the study of abnormal development. More particularly, it is
the study of the causes, mechanisms, and manifestations of abnormal
development, whether genetically, gestationally, or postnatally induced;
and whether expressed as a lethality, malformation, growth retardation, or
functional aberration.

CDC-Centers of Disease Control
NICHD-National Institute of Child and Human Development
NIEHS-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIMH-National Institute of Mental Health

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