Autism Cause: Brain Development Genes?
Genes Missing in Autism Needed for Learning-Triggered Brain Growth
"Autism, even though it has a heritable component, is a complex disease
that will take a lot of different approaches to decipher," Pericak-Vance
tells WebMD. "It will not be one-stop shopping. We know there is no single
major cause and no simple answer."
Pericak-Vance predicts that researchers scanning the entire human genome for
autism clues will soon be announcing more "exciting" results.
Crucial to the Walsh team's findings was the collaboration of scientists in
Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United
Arab Emirates. These researchers enrolled 104 families in the study, including
88 families with marriages among cousins. That was an important factor, as rare
or recessive genes occur twice as often in such families.
But also crucial was a chance meeting between Walsh, a geneticist, and
fellow Children's Hospital Boston/Harvard researcher Michael E. Greenberg, PhD,
a neuroscientist studying how the brain changes as it learns.
"When we talked to each other, we realized, gee, a lot of our genes that
are involved in autism are also their genes that are involved in learning in
the brain," Walsh says. "There is nothing more powerful in science than
these kinds of serendipitous collisions between people working in related but
somewhat distinct fields."
Walsh and colleagues report their findings in the July 11 issue of the
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