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Study of half siblings provides genetic clues to autism
Date:4/17/2012

based family registry for autism, the Interactive Autism Network (IAN). Among those families, 619 included at least one maternal half-sibling. The researchers focused on maternal half-siblings rather than paternal half siblings because these children were more likely to live full-time with their biological mothers and to share the same environmental influences between the time they were born and the age of two, the time at which the onset of autistic syndromes occur. They compared autism recurrence among the 619 maternal half siblings to the rate among 4,832 full siblings.

In an attempt to replicate their findings, the researchers also looked at a group of local St. Louis families in which maternal half siblings also were known to have been raised in the same household.

After analyzing both sets of families, the researchers found that 10 percent to 11 percent of full siblings had been diagnosed with autism, compared to 5 percent to 7 percent of half siblings.

"If transmission of autism risk was occurring equally from unaffected mothers and fathers, you would predict that maternal half siblings' risk of autism would be about half of what we saw in full siblings," Constantino says. "And that's exactly what we found."

Current statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in 110 children in the United States is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Constantino says that according to the new findings, more than 60 percent of those cases of autism are likely to be inherited on the basis of genetic variations inherited from unaffected mothers and fathers.

"In 15 to 20 percent of children with autism, it appears that genetic problems aren't inherited, rather that genes become altered in sperm cells, egg cells or in the developing embryo," he says. "The recent discovery of these kinds of abnormalities have raised questions about the interpretation of twin studies and the extent to which au
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Contact: Judy Martin
martinju@wustl.edu
314-750-4213
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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