Autism is a disorder which mainly involves the nervous system. It is characterized by lack of communication, incoherent language and meaningless repetitive movements. Its onset is in early childhood and its incidence has been reported to be increasing. Several genes and environmental factors have been implicated in the causation of autism, and electromagnetic fields may be one of those environmental factors. Industrialization has added a large number of electronic gadgets around us. Indiscriminate use of these gadgets, particularly mobile phones, has raised the question of electropollution and health hazard caused by their usage. Electromagnetic fields emitted during their operation do not have enough energy to cause DNA alterations directly; however, ample evidence is available from in vitro and in vivo studies to demonstrate their ability to cause DNA alterations indirectly as well as epigenetic modifications. In addition to genetic alterations, the epigenetic modifications may have an important role in causing disruption of the nervous system leading to neurodegenerative disorders, including autism.
Key words: Autism, neurodegenerative disorders, epigenome, electromagnetic fields, electronic gadgets, mobile phones.
Abbreviations: AC, Alternate current, DC, direct current; cDNA, complementary DNA; DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid; ELF, extremely low frequency; EMF, electromagnetic field; FM, frequency mode; GHz, Gega Hertz; Genotype, genetic composition; Hz, Hertz (cycles/second; named after German scientist Henrik Hertz); LMF, low magnetic field; MF, magnetic field; MHz, Mega Hertz; μW, Micro Watt; mW, Milli Watt; Phenotype, result of interaction between genotype and environment (end product due to epigenetic modifications of gene expression); RFR, radiofrequency rays; RNA, ribonucleic acid; SAR, specific absorption rate; T, Tesla (unit of magnetic field; named after an Italian scientist); W, Watt (unit of power; named after a British scientist); W/Kg, Watts/kilogram.
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