Breakthrough with autism genes

31 October 2014

A research team has identified 33 genes that can put a patient at a higher risk of being diagnosed with autism.

Previously, there were nine genes associated with having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the largest sample analysis to date, the international research team, led by the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), examined 14,000 DNA samples from parents, affected children and unrelated individuals.

It is the latest evidence that suggests that small genetic changes can contribute to autism. As well as increasing the number of definitive autism genes, the team found more than 70 others that are likely to be linked to the social disorder.

The 33 genes identified involve critical brain processes, which affect the formation of nerve networks and change the function of synapses that allow brain cells to function properly, according to the researchers.

Bernie Devlin, professor of psychiatry at Pitt University, said he is confident that the list of autism genes will "expand rapidly" as there are already many more samples sequenced. However, what goes wrong is a more difficult question to answer but an increasing list of the genes involved will "surely provide pieces that could solve the puzzle of autism".

Posted by Edward Bartel

 

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