A study published Sunday in Nature Genetics has found that genetics plays a bigger role in autism than environmental factors. According to researchers, 52% of autism risk comes from common genes while only 2.6% have been attributed to spontaneous mutations. The study also found that only part of those spontaneous mutations were brought about by environmental factors.
Joseph Buxbaum, a researcher at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, reveals, “These genetic variations are common enough that most people are likely to have some … Each one has a tiny effect on autism risk, and many hundreds or thousands together make a significant risk.”
Researchers took advantage of Sweden’s health registry to evaluate 3,000 people with autism and 3,000 people without autism. Researchers used their data to determine the degrees that common and rare genes, as well as spontaneous mutations, contribute to autism risk.
The study’s authors then compared their findings to a parallel study of 1.6 million Swedish families. That study identified specific genetic risk factors among the patients.
While researchers believe common genes can determine the risk of autism, they cannot predict at this time if the condition will develop. Researchers of the current study believe they will soon be able to create a risk factor scorecard for the potential of autism.
Buxbaum notes that spontaneous mutations, while small in scope, can play a great effect on autism development. Buxbaum writes, “[Individuals] might have all the common variants there as part of their background risk, but it took this initial hit to push them over the edge.”
Other studies have also concluded that genetic mutations play a significant role in the development of autism.
It should be noted that researchers have pointed out on numerous occasions that there is no single gene for autism. Instead, the condition is believed to develop because of multiple variables.
“The autism field has changed dramatically,” Buxbaum says. “We now have immense power to find both common and rare and spontaneous mutations in autism. That’s really the exciting part.”
Common genes implicated in autism study: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_147413.html
Genetics play a bigger role than environmental causes for autism: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/07/22/genetics-play-a-bigger-role-than-environmental-causes-for-autism/
Mother with Boy with Autism: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boy_2.jpg