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Gene Study Uncovers More Autism Clues
Date:12/12/2012

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified nearly 100 genes linking autism and fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation, according to a new study.

The findings could improve the diagnosis and treatment of both disorders, researchers from Duke University Medical Center and Rockefeller University suggested.

Daniel Smith, director of discovery neuroscience at the advocacy group Autism Speaks, agreed that the research "provides important insights" into molecular mechanisms that underlie neurodevelopmental disorders related to autism.

Smith, who was not involved with the new study, said that "while these findings do not offer immediate benefits to individuals with autism, they are important for early research into potential therapeutics."

Fragile X syndrome is caused by defects on part of the genetic code for a protein known as fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). People with fragile X syndrome have too little or none of the protein, which is necessary for healthy brain development.

"We now know not only which genes are linked to FMRP, but we can locate exactly where they interact," study co-leader Uwe Ohler, an associate professor in biostatistics and bioinformatics at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, said in a university news release. "Down the road, this finding could lead to more detailed genetic tests that take into account the subtle ways that genes get turned on and off."

In conducting the study, published online Dec. 12 in the journal Nature, the researchers found FMRP directly controls at least 93 genes that have been independently linked to autism and other brain disorders with similar symptoms. Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication.

The researchers concluded that the new findings should allow scientists to examine the molecular pathways leadi
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