Autism Research: October 31, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchNew research finds numerous new autism genes

Published in Nature, two major studies have investigated and identified scores of new genes in association with autism. The studies showed that brain communication networks were affected by rare mutations that led to an overall compromise in the way genes are activated. A whopping 100 such genes were identified by geneticists and were led partially by University of California, San Francsico researchers collaborating with about 50 international laboratories across the world. Almost 60 of the 100 genes had a 90% confidence level or probability to attributing towards autism. Most of the mutations were de novo or new mutations, not inherited from parents. One study was co-authored by Dr. Matthew State of the university that focused on data obtained from a database called as Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) having DNA samples of about 3000 families.

The other study was headed by researchers from Mount Sinai University and published in the same journal. Led by Dr. Joseph Buxbaum, this study used over 14000 DNA samples obtained from children with autism, their parents and other unrelated individuals, the largest number to be analyzed till date. The study has given a 4-fold boost to the number of genes that are definitively associated with autism and added about 70 new likely genes. The team said though the genes were identified, ample research in labs, animals and then patients would be required before real drugs could be produced targeting these genes. This was the first study that was able to study effects of spontaneous mutations and inheritable genetic differences on the human embryos. The team even studied the interplay of genetic variations and found that small differences lead to larger risks for autism eventually when they affected hundreds of genes at one go. The implications of identifying all these genes are immense as they open a whole new gateway towards targeted therapeutic research in the years to come.

Group classes for parents teach effective methods for autism therapy

A team of researchers from Stanford University Medicine School and Hospital have developed a scientific therapy that parents can learn to help treat their child with autism. The study and its findings appeared this week in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and were found to help kids improve key language skills that are markedly affected in autism. The study trained groups of parents for 12 weeks and taught them methods to train their children more effectively in language skills. They included positive rewarding methods as a mechanism to teach the child. The researchers led by Antonio Hardan, tried to make parents more than just parents, but good special education teachers.

C-section children have higher chances of autism, Irish study suggests

A new study from Ireland suggests that children born by Caesarean section were more likely to develop autism than their peers by a normal delivery. The team of researchers of UCC with Prof. Kenny as a senior author also found that babies born early might also stand to lose out on essential brain development processes. The study was a review of other international studies and pointed out despite the higher risk, the procedure was largely safe but should not be abused. We first reported this story here as well as a more indepth review by our residendt research analysit Paul Whiteley here.

Another study links air pollutants to autism

The research focused on about 217 children, the majority of whom had been closely monitored since birth for conditions related to ASD; as well as two control groups from areas identified as highly congested by air pollutants. More on this story can be read on Autism Daily Newscast here.

Study Finds Genetic Link to Autism Evolved Recently

As reported earlier this week by Autism Daily Newscast, geneticists at the University of Washington have discovered that a region of the human genome associated with autism, schizophrenia, and other disorders evolved recently, over the past 250,000 years. Their findings were presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2014 Annual Meeting in San Diego.