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33 Genes Linked to Increasing Autism Risk

Update Date: Oct 29, 2014 02:10 PM EDT

New research has expanded the number of genes linked to increasing autism risk from nine to 33. The international research team headed by the Autism Sequencing Consortium used deep DNA sequencing to identify the other genes.

"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.

For this study, the team more than 14,000 DNA samples that were provided by parents, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and unrelated people. The researchers were able to identify 33 genes linked to critical brain processes that could increase one's risk of autism. The team also reported finding 70 other genes that 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," University of Pittsburgh's Bernie Devlin said according to the press release.

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."

The study was published in the journal, Nature.

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