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Scientists discovered 1,000 genes that may be involved in autism

Improved technology has allowed scientists to delve deeper in the study of DNA to search for answers. Recent research provides new answers about genetic glitches that may be linked with autism.

From studying specific areas of DNA in families affected by autism, scientists have identified approximately 1,000 genes that may be linked to the disease. According to the National Institutes of Health, a person’s entire genome consists of about 3 billion nucleotides of DNA. Yet, a portion called the exome (1.5%) only produces proteins. The exome also harbors 85% of disease-causing mutations. Studies found that spontaneous genetic mutations in the exome lead to the risk of children developing autism.

One study headed by Even Eichler, a professor of genome studies at the University of Washington, proved that 39% of spontaneous mutations increase the risk of autism since they interfere with biological developments that are important for brain communication. The study also suggested that these mutations were highly paternal, originating in the father’s sperm.

Yes, this research is useful, but it still proves that we haven’t found a single gene that connects to autism. What we do know is several genetic mutations increase the risk of autism and that they may affect people in different ways.

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April is National Autism Awareness Month

What is autism?

  • A neurological disorder that disrupts a child’s learning and socialization
  • The third most common developmental disability
  • A spectrum disorder, meaning it has a very wide range of symptoms and/or characteristics

-Children with this disorder range from very high functioning to extremely impaired

  • It is 4x more prevalent in boys than girls
  • Usually diagnosed during the first 3 years of a child’s life
  • There is no medical test for autism

-Autism is determined only through observation and testing of a child done by a team of professionals, coupled with guardian interviews

  • In order for a diagnosis to be made, child must exhibit all 3 of the following symptoms:

-Qualitative impairments in social interaction

-Qualitative impairments in communication

-Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities

  • It is estimated that 1,500,000 people in the US today have autism
  • Unfortunately, to date, no single cause or cure for autism has been identified

Join the Autism Society in getting involved with the autism community this April.