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Common gene variants account for most of the genetic risk for autism
Date:7/20/2014

tors, it is important to know that there is underlying risk in the family genetic architecture itself."

Gauging the collective impact on autism risk of variations in the genetic code shared by most people, individually much subtler in effect, has proven to be even more challenging. Limitations in sample size and composition have made it difficult to detect these effects and to estimate the relative influence of such common, rare inherited and rare, spontaneous de novo variation. Differences in methods and statistical models have also resulted in estimates of autism heritability ranging from 17 to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, recent genome-wide studies of schizophrenia have achieved large enough sample sizes to reveal involvement of well over 100 common gene variants in that disorder. These promise improved understanding of the underlying biology and even development of risk-scores, which could help predict who might benefit from early interventions to nip psychotic episodes in the bud.

With their new study, autism genetics is beginning to catch up, say the researchers. The PAGES study was made possible by Sweden's universal health registry, which allowed investigators to compare very large samples (n~3000 in the current study) of people with autism with matched controls. Researchers also employed new statistical methods that allowed them to more reliably sort out the heritability of the disorder. In addition, they were able to compare their results with a parallel family-based study in the Swedish population, which took into account data from twins, cousins and factors such as age of the father at birth and parents' psychiatric history.

"This is a different kind of analysis than employed in previous studies," says Thomas Lehner, PhD, Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Genomics Research Branch. "Data from genome-wide association studies was used to identify a genetic model instead of focusing on just pin
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Contact: Elizabeth Dowling
newsmedia@mssm.edu
212-241-9200
The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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