Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Autism Genes Exist in Us All

Credit: ktsdesign/adobe

Credit: ktsdesign/adobe

By Marie-Jo Brion

A new study has found that genetic factors underlying autism are present in everyone and are influencing our behaviour.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

How genetically different are individuals diagnosed with autism compared with non-autistic people in the general population? According to a new study into the genetics of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), there may be more similarities than previously thought.

ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by deficits in social behaviour and communication, along with restrictive and repetitive interests. They may include elements such as a lack of understanding of non-verbal communication, difficulties with social interaction, repetitive motor movements and speech, fixation with routines, particular foods and unusual objects, and extreme distress at small changes.

ASD is estimated to occur in around 1% of people worldwide. It’s thought to be caused by a combination of different genetic and environmental factors yet, despite extensive research over the past decade, its exact causes are not fully understood.

For thousands of rare diseases, genetic causes can be pinned down to a single genetic factor that has a large and detrimental biological impact. In Huntington’s disease, for example, a single gene mutation causes severe neurodegeneration and brain damage.

But this is not the case for nearly all common diseases, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. For these common diseases the evidence...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.