islamabad - A new study reveals that exposure to banned chemicals could still be high, and it could be putting children at significantly greater risk for autism.

For the new study, co-author Kristen Lyall, assistant professor at the A J Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, and colleagues set out to investigate whether prenatal exposure to organochlorines in the US could be linked to autism development - a possible association that they say has received little attention.

“Adverse effects are related to levels of exposure, not just presence or absence of detectable levels,” notes Lyall. “In our Southern California study population, we found evidence for modestly increased risk for individuals in the highest 25th percentile of exposure to some of these chemicals.”

The team identified two compounds - PCB 138/158 and PCB 153 - that appeared to have the strongest link with autism; children with the highest prenatal exposure to these PCBs were found to be at 79-82 percent greater risk of autism, compared with those with the lowest prenatal exposure.

“The results suggest that prenatal exposure to these chemicals above a certain level may influence neurodevelopment in adverse ways,” says Lyall.

Overall, the researchers say their findings indicate higher exposure to organochlorines in pregnancy may raise the risk of autism and intellectual disabilities for offspring:

“The overall pattern of our results suggests increases in risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and ID [intellectual disability] with prenatal exposure to higher levels of a number of OCCs, and in particular, PCBs.

Future work should further consider genetic background in the role of these exposures on neurodevelopmental outcomes. Continued investigation of OCCs [organochlorine compounds] in association with ASD and ID is needed, given our findings and the dearth of studies investigating this topic.”

Meanwhile, another research suggests that ginger is spicing up the search for a cure for inflammatory bowel disease. Delivered in the form of nanoparticles, researchers believe ginger could offer a targeted and effective remedy for this potentially debilitating condition.

The team, led by Dr Didier Merlin and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, started by juicing fresh ginger root from the local farmers’ market in a kitchen blender.

Next, they used a super-high-speed centrifuge to achieve ultrasonic dispersion of the ginger juice and create pellets.

Findings from mouse studies indicate that the particles can reduce acute colitis and prevent chronic colitis and colitis-associated cancer.

The particles appear to help in intestinal repair by encouraging the survival and proliferation of cells in the lining of the colon. They also appear to lower the production of proteins that promote inflammation and to raise the levels of proteins that fight inflammation.

The particles can efficiently target the colon, as they are absorbed mainly by cells in the lining of the intestines, where IBD occurs.

They also appear to be nontoxic.

As a result, the researchers suggest that the particles could be used to treat the two main forms of IBD as well as cancer linked to colitis.

The authors say that the high levels of lipids or fatty molecules, in the particles are key to their therapeutic effect. The ginger plant contains natural lipids, including phosphatidic acid. These are important for building cell membranes.

Other key active substances that naturally occur in ginger are 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol. Previous research has indicated that these compounds can help prevent oxidation, inflammation, and cancer.

It is these constituents that also make ginger effective against nausea and other digestive problems.

Delivering these compounds in a nanoparticle could be a more effective way of targeting colon tissue than consuming natural ginger as a food or supplement.

Merlin and his co-authors have described plants as a “bio-renewable, sustainable, diversified platform for the production of therapeutic nanoparticles.”

Meanwhile, ginger has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for a range of health issues, including colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension.  It is used in a fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, and powdered or ground form, in sweets and savoury foods, and as a drink. Ginger tea is said to aid digestion. Ginger supplements are available from health food stores in the form of chews, or mixed with honey as a digestive aid.