A team of UCLA students recently conducted a new study that portrayed that families containing more than one child on the autism spectrum had a difference in genetics in comparison with families containing only one child with the disorder. The study was centered around copy-number variations which are genetic changes, specifically gains or losses of genetic material. Research in the past has connected non-inherited CNVs, which began as a defected egg or sperm cell, to autism spectrum disorder in offspring that had no affected sibling. The findings of the current study included more than 12 new candidates for genes that were connected to the chance of autism spectrum disorders occurring. This study helps to give a clearer understanding of how genetic variation contributes to autism disorders.
The findings of this study identified that children with autism spectrum disorder who also have a brother or sister with the same disorder had inherited CNVs that had stronger influence that non-inherited CNVs did. The researchers predicted that this would happen but it had not previously been observed before. Scientists also found that affected children with an inherited genetic variation that was believed to be an autism spectrum disorder risk factor was not always the same in their affected siblings. It is likely that not all siblings with autism have the same disease–linked genetic variation.
The findings of this study are particularly interesting because it will help point scientists in the right direction to potentially discovering new therapies to help with the disorder. The more scientists understand about various disorders and diseases, especially when it comes to their genetic makeup, the better chance they have of finding cures and better ways to treat them, or maybe, even eliminate them all-together.