Genetics Studies Search for Autism Cause

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While there is no known cause for Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to date, scientists are determined to search for a cause through various research studies focused on genetics. Studies in genetics that have focused on twins have been able to shed some light into the fact that approximately 70-80% of factors that contribute to autism are linked to genetics. The other 20-30% can be attributed to environmental factors. Autism spectrum disorder affects now at least one in 59 children in the United States. The disorder presents with a variety of symptoms (each varying from one case to the next) between the ages of two and three. Typical symptoms include difficulties interacting with peers, communication challenges, sensitivity to light and sound, and engaging in repetitive behaviors. Previous research has already identified 65 genes that are associated with ASD, but these studies focused solely on new mutations in an attempt to find genes that may be responsible for the disorder. 

New research led by Jack Kosmicki, a PhD candidate and bioinformaticist at Harvard University, takes on a different approach. Kosmicki believes that the previous research is lacking, and that there could be other potential sources of genetic variations that influence the onset of ASD. His research focused on analyzing the genes of over 37,000 people. This research not only focused on studying mutations, but also differences between the genes of individuals with ASD compared to those without it. This research has identified more than 100 genes that are associated with an autism diagnosis. While this research is only the beginning, Kosmicki and his colleagues hope to continue with future studies as means of identifying and creating a resource for all genes that may be associated with ASD. 

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While there is still no known cause of ASD, determining the genes associated with it could help individuals who wish to assess their risk of having a child with this disorder in the future. Currently, there is no cure for autism, however behavioral interventions such as  ABA therapy have been highly effective at treating some of the behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, improving social skills, and reducing repetitive movements and outbursts. If you have a child or loved one in the Great Falls, MT area who has ASD and you would like some support for helping him/her acclimate to home life, the classroom, and public environments, our team at Big Sky Therapeutic Services would love to help. Feel free to fill out our contact form today. 

Jayna Nickert