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Girls May Be More Resistant to Autism Than Boys: Study
Date:6/8/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- Girls may be more resistant to the spontaneous genetic mishaps that explain some cases of autism in families with no history of the disorder, two new studies suggest.

Everyone carries a certain number of duplications or deletions of one or more sections of DNA, something known as copy number variants, explained Dr. Christian Schaaf, an assistant professor in the department of molecular and human genetics at the Baylor College of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial. If you accumulate enough of them, and the duplications and deletions occur on certain important areas of the chromosomes, those variants may lead to autism and other conditions.

In the studies, published in the June 9 issue of Neuron, researchers searched copy number variants in genetic samples from more than 1,000 families with an autistic child who were recruited as part of the Simons Simplex Collection project.

Autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental conditions marked by impaired social interaction and communication, unusual interests, repetitive behaviors and, in some cases, intellectual disability.

In cases where only one child in a family is affected, it has been difficult to pinpoint new copy number variants. Researchers believed that was because the available technology did not allow them to view the genetic material at a high enough resolution to see what had gone wrong, Schaaf said.

The new studies made use of newer, high resolution array analysis to seek out copy number variants that differed between the child with autism and the parents and siblings without autism.

"Before, it was like looking at the map of the United States. There was good enough resolution to tell the states and the big cities," Schaaf explained. "Now, the resolution is so much higher, you can look at individual streets."

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