Study: Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder is Mostly Genetic

Study: Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder is Mostly Genetic

About one in every 68 children in the U.S. has Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

New research is suggesting that a person’’s likelihood of having autism is largely based on their inherited genes.

Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., founding chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, and director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare, did not take part in the research, but said many theories exist on whether autism is genetic, environmental, or a combination of the two. She said this latest research gives us an idea of how much may be genetic.

“They showed by this calculation experiment, that a large proportion of autism — 83 percent — is due to some type of genetic cause,” Eng says.

Previous studies have found that autism spectrum disorder tends to aggregate in families.

This most recent research consisted of a re-analysis of data from a group of children in Sweden from 1982 through 2006 including twins, siblings and half-siblings.

Researchers estimated that the incidence of ‘inherited’ autism was about 83 percent, whereas the non-shared environmental influence was estimated at 17 percent.

Eng says this does not, however, mean that researchers have identified one gene that can be altered to cause all autism. Instead, she says there are interactions between several and typically, many genes and a person’’s environment, which is what makes autism so complex. In other words, the more variables that are at play, the more difficult a disorder becomes to understand.

However, Eng says families who are affected by autism should be excited whenever new research is presented, because the knowledge gives them power.

In this case, she says taking a closer look at family health-history could be beneficial.

“Taking a family health history would be important, because if ther’’s already someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the study is correct, then the likelihood of another person having it in the family is higher, says Eng. “It’’s not a lot higher, so people should not panic, but it just gives an indication. If people are unsure about their autism risk, they should not hesitate to ask to see an autism doctor or a genetics professional.”

Eng says this study highlights the importance of getting more families who have loved ones affected by autism to sign up for research. She adds this can help researchers gain a better understanding of how the disorder works and make possible the advances that will make a difference in these families’’ lives.

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

— Submitted by Cleveland Clinic News Service

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