33 Genes Linked To Autism Via Sequencing Studies

First Posted: Oct 29, 2014 02:38 PM EDT

Researchers have found that 33 genes may play a role in the risk of autism--a behavioral disorder that's estimated to affect 1 in 68 children.

An international research team headed by the Autism Sequencing Consortium has found that deep DNA sequencing could be helpful in identifying the genes linked to the problem.

"This makes sense because typical development of brain cells require intricate coordination among thousands of genes and appropriate communication between cells to ensure development of the brain - the most complicated organ in the human body," said Carnegie Mellon University's Kathryn Roeder, professor from the Department of Statistics and the Lane Center for Computational Biology, in a news release. 

For the study, researchers analyzed more than 14,000 DNA samples provided by parents, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and unrelated people. They were then able to identify 33 genes linked to critical brain processes that increased the risk of autism. They found that 70 other genes could be tied to autism.

"I am confident that the list of autism genes will expand rapidly because there are already many more samples sequenced. What goes awry is a harder question, but the ever increasing list of genes involved will surely provide pieces that could solve the puzzle of autism," added University of Pittsburgh's Bernie Devlin.

Joseph D. Buxbaum, professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, added, "The steps we added to our analysis over past studies provide the most complete theoretical picture to date of how many genetic changes pile up to affect the brains of children with autism. While we have very strong findings in these genetic analyses, newfound genetic discoveries must be moved into molecular, cell and animal studies to realize future benefits for families. A study like this creates an industry for years to come, with labs worldwide checking the brain changes linked to each new genetic finding."

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Nature.

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