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Autism a Complicated Genetic Problem

A spate of recent studies has revealed that autism is far more complex than had been believed thus far. The latest one, done by the National Institute for Mental Health// , seems to suggest that the disease might be caused by as many as 100 different genes.

It turns out many different genetic abnormalities could finally result in autism and this certainly complicates the search for the specific genes contributing to autism, says. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health.

Autism is marked by a variety of difficulties in social interaction and behavior.

Even those who cold be normal and intelligent otherwise could have serious problems in communication skills.

Such abilities are scattered throughout the human genome. Any small change anywhere could have broad effect, it has been found.

For the present study, Dr. Jonathan Sebat of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and colleagues across the United States, in Finland and in Britain looked at the DNA of people in 264 families.

"We performed whole-genome scans on all parents, patients and unaffected children," the researchers say.

Usually, tests of DNA of people with diseases show that everyone in a family who has the disorder carries the same mutation or pattern of mutations.

But that's not the case here. The researchers found numerous spontaneous mutations in 14 of 195 people with autism-related disorders.

And of the 14 autism patients with mutations, only two had relatives with autism. Scientists have a long and arduous task ahead in both identifying what triggers off autism and coming up with appropriate therapy, it is stated.

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