An international effort, including researchers at McGill University, hase announced the discovery of 18 new genes related to autism.
These results will accelerate research on the cause and treatment of the disorder and may also be used for screening.
“This is a significant increase in the number of genes associated with autism, according to Mayada Elsabbagh, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill and one of the co-authors of the study.
Previously, there were a few dozen genes associated with Autism although some are suspected to have a weak association with it. The newly discovered genes are believed to have a strong association with the disorder.
The study, headed in Toronto, is one of the largest in the world and will ultimately be the largest genetic database for autism research.
The goal is to have 10,000 samples, according to Elsabbagh. They currently have 5000, which makes it one of the biggest samples to date, including 200 samples in Quebec from patients, siblings and parents.
The analysis is performed using a new technique. Researchers will continue to observe the functions of these genes, looking for the behaviors, the phenotypes, associated with their functions. Eventually, it is is hoped this reasearch will facilitate screening and diagnosis in clinics.
The study has been published in the Nature Neuroscience journal (preview).
Photo (McGill University): Wikimedia Commons