New findings in autism

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Section: Health Notes
In the past, studies have suggested that there might be a genetic component to autism. A new study, led by Dr. Patricia M. Rodier of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, concludes that a gene may in fact increase the risk of autism.

The November issue of Teratology reported that 57 people with autism, along with 166 of their relatives, took part in the study which focused on a gene called HOXA1, which plays a crucial role in the early brain development. Almost 40 percent of those with autism were found to have a specific variation in at least one of the two copies of the HOXA1 gene. The findings suggest that a mutation of this gene, in addition to other genes or factors, may increase autism risk.

Autism affects a person's ability to communicate, interact with others and form relationships. The disorder becomes apparent during the first few years of life and research suggests that a disruption in fetal brain development is involved.