Gene that May Lead to Autism Identified

Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed based on behaviors and not on a particular medical test. Research is continually looking for connections between the environment and genetics and autism in order to obtain clues as to the cause of this complex disorder. Autism diagnoses are on the rise, and while early intervention and treatment can often have a profound affect on autistic children’s ability to live a fulfilling life, no cause has yet been discovered. Consequently, research into causes of autism is an ongoing project for researchers.

In 2007, the results of the largest-ever genome scan were published. Performed by over 120 scientists working in more than 50 research institutions that comprise the Autism Genome Project, the research began in 2002 as a collaboration to identify genes that may cause autism.

Funded by Autism Speaks, the research team used looked for genetic similarities in the DNA from nearly 1,200 families. Findings of the study included the discovery that neurexin 1, part of a family of genes previously linked to autism, and a gene on chromosome 11 may be linked to autism.

In addition, researchers believe there may be as many as 30 genes involved in autism. In short, if a child has one or more of these indentified genes, then he or she has a higher risk of being born with autism.

Clearly, ongoing research is necessary in order for researchers to get closer to pinpointing a particular gene or genes that are implicated in autism. The next phase of the Autism Genome Project will continue to try to isolate genes that cause autism. The earlier autism is diagnosed, the earlier treatment and intervention can begin; early treatment is imperative in helping children with autism diagnoses to lead more fulfilling lives. Finding causes of autism is a positive step toward early diagnosis.

Resources & References

Read the National Institute of Mental Healh’s press release here.

Visit the Austism Genome Project’s website here.

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