Sunday, February 18, 2007

Autism/neurexin link found

The largest study of the genetics of autism ever conducted, involving DNA from almost 1,200 affected families worldwide, has already yielded two important clues to the poorly understood disorder.

Discoveries in two areas of the genome -- a region on chromosome 11 suspected of having links to autism, and aberrations in a brain-development gene called neurexin 1 -- could spur more targeted research, the experts noted.

"That's the real promise here," said Autism Genome Project co-researcher Dr. Stephen Scherer, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "When you identify certain genes, you can then develop genetic tests -- in some cases prenatal and in some cases postnatal -- because early diagnosis is crucial here."

[from HealthDay Reporter]

Dr. Stanley Nelson of UCLA noted that there might be dozens, or even hundreds, of relevant genes. Autism disorders are at a level of 1 in every 150 children.

Meanwhile, "60 Minutes" did a story on autism on 18 Feb. 2007 about research including that of Sally Rogers at UC/Davis. Her theory is that early treatment to create new connections in the brain is useful. She noted that there is a huge range in reactions to such treatment. There was an interesting story about a grandmother who diagnosed autism in a child, even when the mother and doctors did not.
There was discussion of work by Ozonoff, who found at 6 months, normal children respond to their name (but only half the children who didn't respond had autism).

There has been a claim of a 60 fold increase in autism. This was disputed by Goodman at Johns Hopkins, who noted that the definition was broadened in the 1990's. One theory had involved mercury in childhood vaccines. Goodman did not think this was viable to explain autism.

"60 Minutes" did not mention the neurexin etc. work disclosed on Feb. 18.


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