Page URL:

Different genes may trigger autism in boys and girls

7 August 2006
Appeared in BioNews 370

Researchers at the University of Washington, US, have found that different genes may be responsible for causing autism in boys than girls. Reporting in the Journal of Molecular Genetics last week, they have found evidence for two genetic subtypes of autism; both male versus female and also the early versus late onset form of the disorder. The study provides new evidence that multiple genes contribute to autism.

Professor Geraldine Dawson, a Professor of Psychology and a member of the team, explained that this information is critical: 'With Alzheimer's disease research, one big breakthrough was segregating the late and early onset forms of the disease, and this led to important genetic discoveries'.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The disorder affects social and language skills, and the way in which a child relates to people, objects and events.
The researchers examined the DNA of 169 families with at least two siblings who met the strict criteria for autism. They also scanned the DNA of 54 other families that had members with autism and less-severe forms of the disorder such as Asperger syndrome.

Professor Gerard Schellenberg who led the study explained that they came up with 'strong support' for an autism gene on chromosome 7 and 'less, but still compelling evidence' for genes on chromosomes 3, 4 and 11. These results confirm some data from previous studies, particularly involving chromosome 7.

He continued, 'It is highly unlikely that there is only one gene responsible for autism', adding 'There may be four to six major genes and 20 to 30 others that might contribute to autism to a lesser degree', adding 'and because autism is rarer in females, it may take more risk genes for a female to have autism'.

The researchers are looking for autism susceptibility genes, ones that heighten the risk of an child getting autism, just as there are genes that raise the chance of getting breast cancer. Professor Dawson said that "once we discover these susceptibility genes, we can immediately screen infants to identify those at risk early in life. Early identification can lead to early intervention, which could have a much more dramatic effect'.

She added: "Once you understand the biology you can develop a prevention strategy including medical approaches'. The search for autism genes is part of a long term Autism Center effort to uncover the genetic and neurobiological causes of autism. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to one in every 175 US children have autism.

Different Genes May Cause Autism In Boys And Girls
Medical News Today |  3 August 2006
Different genes may cause autism in girls: study
Reuters |  3 August 2006
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....
21 September 2009 - by Professor Richard Ashcroft 
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rarely far from the news. ASD is a complex, and as yet poorly understood, pervasive developmental disorder. People with ASD display a triad of impairments in social communication, social interaction, and social imagination (1). The impact of these impairments on children and adults with ASD, and on their families, can vary enormously. However, a common reaction to ASD is fear: fear that my child may develop ASD; fear that my child with ASD will suffer;
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...
16 February 2007 - by BioNews 
By Dr Laura Bell New research recently published in the journal Science provides hope for the treatment of Rett syndrome, a rare but severe childhood neurological disorder. Nearly 10,000 children in the UK are affected by Rett syndrome which, in its early stages, has similar symptoms to autism. The condition...
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...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.