Gene linked to autism risk identified

May 20th, 2009 - 2:13 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 20 (ANI): A new study from University of California, Los Angeles has identified a genetic variant that may increase a child’s risk of developing autism, particularly boys.

The research team has discovered a variant of a gene called CACNA1G that, according to the researchers, that makes boys four times more likely to develop autism, than girls.

“This is a strong finding,” said Dr. Stanley Nelson, professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“No one has scrutinized the role that CACNA1G plays in autism.

“We found that a common form of the gene occurs more frequently in the DNA of families that have two or more sons affected by autism, but no affected daughters.

“Our study may explain why boys are more susceptible to the disorder than girls,” he added.

Researchers zeroed in on a region of Chromosome 17 that previous studies have tied to autism.

They scoured the DNA of 1,046 members of families with at least two sons affected by autism for common gene variants and identified genetic markers to CACNA1G, which helps move calcium between the cells.

They discovered that the gene has a common variant that appears in the DNA of nearly 40 percent of the population.

“This alternate form of CACNA1G consistently increased the correlation to autism spectrum disorder, suggesting that inheriting the gene may heighten a child’s risk of developing autism,” said Nelson.

“This variant is a single piece of the puzzle. We need a larger sample size to identify all of the genes involved in autism and to solve the whole puzzle of this disease,” he added.

The study appears in journal Molecular Psychiatry. (ANI)

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