Autism breakthrough as scientists find 70 genes ‘strongly linked’ to condition

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Autism breakthrough as scientists find 70 genes ‘strongly linked’ to fitness

  • American researchers looked at DNA of 150,000 people, 20,000 of whom had autism
  • They identified the biological changes in the brain that contribute to autism
  • They 70 genetic variants could pave the way for new tests and treatments

Scientists have discovered dozens of genes strongly linked to autism in what could be a breakthrough.

Researchers hope the more than 70 newly identified genetic variants could pave the way for new tests and treatments for the condition.

Autism and related conditions such as Asperger’s affect more than one in 100 British children and one in 44 American youngsters — ten times more than 30 years ago.

Despite its emergence, the condition is still little understood and getting a diagnosis can be long and stressful for patients and their families.

Families are often forced to attend multiple hospital appointments and children have to undergo various psychological tests.

While medications can be given to control symptoms such as aggression or hyperactivity, there is no cure.

In the largest study of its kind, US researchers looked at the DNA of 150,000 participants, 20,000 of whom had been diagnosed with autism.

They identified 72 genes that are “very strongly” linked to the condition and hundreds more with looser associations.

Scientists are one step closer to solving the riddle of autism after discovering more than a hundred new genes linked to the condition

It is hoped that the latest study, published in Nature Genetics, will help future research teams narrow their focus.

Study co-author Dr Joseph Buxbaum, director of the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai in New York, said: “We know that many genes, when mutated, contribute to autism.

“In this unprecedented study, we were able to bring together multiple types of mutations in a wide variety of samples to provide a much richer picture of the genes and genetic architecture involved in autism.”

“This is important because we now have a greater understanding of the biology of the brain changes underlying autism and more potential targets for treatment.”

The study used an autism cohort of 63,000 people, 20,000 of whom had the condition, and a developmental delay cohort that involved 91,000 people.

Statistical analysis revealed 72 genes strongly associated with autism, as well as 252 more that are most likely involved in the condition.

Genes linked to autism tended to affect mature neurons – which can no longer divide unlike other neurons and appear early in development.

In comparison, those related to developmental delays are more likely to be active during a neuron’s development, although the two may “overlap.”

Buxbaum said it will likely require a “precision medicine approach” for autism based on a person’s genes.

And people should be genetically tested for autism to help develop new drugs that “benefit families and individuals at risk for autism spectrum disorder,” said Dr. Buxbaum.

“The more we can advance therapies, based on the targets identified in these genetic findings, the more people we can help, which could have a significant impact in tackling autism and developmental delay globally,” he added.

His team collected data from autism research initiatives such as the Autism Sequencing Consortium, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard.

They looked at the genomes of about 150,000 people, 20,627 of whom had autism.

In addition to the 72 genes that appear to be behind autism, they discovered another 250 that are also linked to the condition.

Autism refers to a wide variety of conditions characterized by problems with social skills, repetitive behavior, speech, and nonverbal communication.

What are the signs of autism?

Signs of autism in young children include:

  • Not responding to their name
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Don’t smile when you smile at them
  • Getting very upset if they don’t like a particular taste, smell, or sound
  • Repetitive motions, such as clapping their hands, waving their fingers, or rocking their bodies
  • Don’t talk as much as other kids
  • Repeating the same sentences

Signs of autism in older children include::

  • Not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • Find it hard to say how they feel
  • Keeping a strict daily routine and getting very upset when it changes
  • Have a very strong interest in certain topics or activities
  • Get very upset when you ask them to do something
  • Do you find it difficult to make friends or do you prefer to be alone
  • Taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like ‘break a leg’

Common symptoms of autism in adults include:

  • Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • Becoming very anxious about social situations
  • Do you find it difficult to make friends or do you prefer to be alone
  • Appearing rude, rude or uninterested in others without wanting it
  • Find it hard to say how you feel
  • Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like ‘break a leg’
  • Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious when it changes

Source: NHS

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The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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