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Worldwide search for autism genes begins

19 July 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 267

An international team of 170 scientists has embarked on a search for genes that influence a child's risk of developing autism. The project will study 6000 DNA samples from around 1,200 families affected by the developmental disorder, in order to track down the estimated 15-20 genes thought to be involved. The scientists will use DNA 'chips', or microarrays, to look at 10,000 different genetic variations at the same time, to pinpoint those associated with autism. All the families taking part in the study have at least two children with autism, or a related disorder such as Asperger's syndrome.

Results from the new project, funded by the US National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), should be available in early 2005. 'We are very excited about combining scientific expertise with this cutting-edge technology to help uncover the genetic underpinnings of autism and determine what causes the disorder', said Prisca Chen Marvin of NAAR. She said the work was important for the diagnosis, treatment and management of the disorder. The number of children diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically in recent years, an increase partly attributed to better recognition of the condition.

Although autism often affects more than one child in the same family, suggesting that genetic factors are important, several non-genetic factors are also likely to be involved. A new UK study aims to identify these environmental influences, by studying 14,000 children who have been followed since birth. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), also known as the 'Children of the 90s' project, has recently been awarded £400,000 by the Medical Research Council to look at autism.

Paul Shattock, of the Autism Research Unit in Sunderland, welcomed the funding: 'There's a whole range of possible environmental triggers, and given the size of this study, they should be able to tease out which ones are significant', he told the Scientist magazine. He added that he was 'pleased they're moving away from a totally genetic grounding to consider environmental factors'. ALSPAC team leader Jean Golding said the research would also help define Asperger's syndrome and autism. 'What this research is doing, that previous work hasn't, is try and untangle the different traits', she said.

Project to search for autism gene
BBC News Online |  19 July 2004
Study seeks clues to genes responsible for autism
Mercury News |  19 July 2004
UK autism study launched
The Scientist |  9 July 2004
World can chip into find DNA for autism
The Times |  19 July 2004
25 October 2009 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
US scientists have identified a genetic trait that is strongly associated with autism. The genetic change does not involve a mutation within the DNA sequence of a gene but instead involves an alteration in the physical structure of the DNA which affects the way a gene is turned on and off. The researchers hope that the new findings will lead to novel ways to diagnose and treat autism....
26 March 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Many cases of autism could be linked to spontaneous genetic changes that result in large chunks of missing DNA, according to a new US study. The research, published early online in Science, shows that so-called 'copy number variants' could be an important factor in the appearance...
26 February 2007 - by Dr Laura Bell 
Recent research published online in the journal Nature Genetics has revealed new genetic variations which may contribute to autism. Autism, along with related conditions such as Asperger syndrome, is characterised by a range of severity and symptoms. The conditions are therefore collectively known as autistic spectrum...
4 May 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Mice bred to lack a crucial brain gene show many of the characteristics of autism, say US scientists based at the University of Texas. The team created a 'knockout' mouse that is missing a gene called Pten, specifically in areas of the brain associated with learning...
29 July 2005 - by BioNews 
In two separate studies, scientists working at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, US have shown that a faulty gene involved in controlling levels of the brain chemical serotonin is linked to an increased risk of autism. The first study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, shows that many different...
5 April 2004 - by BioNews 
Variations in a gene involved in energy production could be linked to autism, US researchers say. A team based at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York studied 720 people from 411 families, who all have either autism, or the related condition autistic disorder. They found that variations...
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