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Researchers Link 25 New Gene Variants to Autism

MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Twenty-five newly identified gene variants have been linked to an increased risk for autism, according to a new study.

Many of these variants may prove valuable in predicting the risk of autism in children and, if so, could become part of a clinical test to help determine whether a child has an autism spectrum disorder, said study author Dr. Hakon Hakonarson, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

He and his colleagues discovered the new gene variants after analyzing DNA from thousands of people with and without autism, according to the study published Jan. 14 in the journal PLoS One.

The variations occur in genes involved in the development of neurons and signaling pathways in the brain, the study authors noted in a hospital news release.

"These high-impact variants could be most useful in advising parents who already have one child with an autism spectrum disorder," Hakonarson said in the release. "If a second child has delays in reaching developmental milestones, testing for these [gene variants] could help predict whether that child is also likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder," he explained.

Although the study found an association between these genetic variants and a raised risk of autism spectrum disorder, it did not prove cause-and-effect.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism spectrum disorders affect as many as one in 88 children in the United States. Genetics are believed to play a role in the condition, which causes developmental problems with behavior, communication and social interaction.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, news release, Jan. 14, 2013

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Researchers Link 25 New Gene Variants to Autism
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