What is MARBLES?

MARBLES is a longitudinal study for pregnant women who have a biological child with autism spectrum disorder. The MARBLES study, which began in 2006, investigates possible pre-natal and post-partum biological and environmental exposures and risk factors that may contribute to the development of autism.

Information about each participant's genetics and environment is collected through a number of sources, including blood, urine, hair, saliva, and breast milk (if the mother is breast feeding), as well as through home dust samples, in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the environment surrounding each pregnancy. Information is also obtained through interviews conducted with the mother using standardized questionnaires, and by accessing medical records in order to uncover more information about any behavioral aspects or trends that may contribute to the development of autism.

Possible Early Signs or Causes Under Study

  • Exposures: viral or other illnesses, pesticides and environmental contaminants toxic to the immune and nervous systems, medications
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Immune system function
  • Metabolism
  • Behavioral markers

Why is MARBLES Unique?

MARBLES follows mothers before, during, and after their pregnancies, allowing us to obtain information about the pre-natal and post-natal environment to which the baby is exposed. By gathering information in real-time we increase the accuracy of the information collected and will be able to better understand and observe the biological and behavioral changes that may occur in the mother and/or baby throughout the pregnancy and early childhood period.

Our Study Goals

The goals of the MARBLES study are to determine and understand the genetic and environmental causes of autism; to identify early signs of autism; and to develop diagnostic tests and interventions that can limit the effects of autism or prevent it altogether.