Two New Genes Linked to Autism

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 3 (UPI) — U.S. researchers said they have identified two additional genes that may be linked with autism.

Study co-author Ning Lei of Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Studies says there is no known cause of autism, but mutations of several genes have been linked to autism.

Lei and colleagues analyzed data from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange on 943 families who had more than one child diagnosed with autism and had undergone genetic testing.

Investigators compared the prevalence of 25 gene mutations that appeared in the study participants’ families with a control group of 6,317 individuals.

The study identified mutations in four genes within the study group families — two of the genes have been previously linked to autism.

One of the new genes identified was neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2) — linked to the hippocampus in the brain — a region of the brain that has been associated with autism.

“While mutations in the NCAM2 gene were found in a small percentage of the children that we studied, it is fascinating that this finding continues a consistent story — that many of the genes associated with autism are involved with formation or function of the neural synapse,” Lei said in a statement.

“Studies such as this provide evidence that autism is a genetically based disease that affects neural connectivity.”

The findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver.

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