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Is Autism Genetic?

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Updated December 23, 2010

How Is Autism and Genetics Research Conducted?

Several organizations are in the process of collecting a great deal of information about families which include autistic people. The Autism Genetic Resource Exchange is one such organization. They, along with several other institutions, actively solicit family involvement in research programs to find out more about genetics and autism.

Information collected by organizations like AGRE is freely shared with the research community. Their raw data is leading to a greater understanding of the relationship between heredity and autism.

When Will We Know Which Genes Are Implicated in Autism?

The Here's what Dr. Croen has to say about the state of genetic research and autism:
There have been a zillion genetic studies, but no single gene has been identified as an “autism” gene. There are lots of “hotspots,” but the studies are not consistent.
The truth is that, while genetics is almost certainly a causative factor in autism, any useful treatments based on genetics are a long way off. Meanwhile, however, we do know a few things:
  • Autism has a genetic component.
  • If autism runs in your family, you have an increased risk of having a child with autism.
  • If you already have one child with autism, you have an increased risk of having another child with autism.
  • The genes associated with autism are complex -- and a genetic inclination toward autism may require an environmental "trigger" to cause symptoms.

References:

Interview with Dr. Lisa Croen, Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Research Institute
Autism Genetic Resource Exchange Website
Cure Autism NowWebsite
Exploring Autism Website

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