Autism has a strong genetic basis, but so far efforts to identify the responsible genes have had mixed results. The reason for this is that autism is influenced by many different genes, and different genes are involved in different individuals, making it hard to find the common genetic ground between patients.
Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
have achieved a major breakthrough in studies to determine how the different genes associated with autism are interrelated, as reported by PsychCentral
. The researchers conducted a study which has shown why autism is influenced by so many different genes and why the specific genes involved varying so much between different patients.
The research was led by Dr. Sagiv Shifman and Eyal Ben-David of the Department of Genetics at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. The research was published by the Public Library of Science
, a specialist website, reports that the research was conducted by constructing a complex network pattern which was based on the pattern of genes across different areas of the human brain. In undertaking this exercise, the scientists found that mutations and common gene variants seen among autistics tended to be located in specific areas and shared between sets of genes.
These genes were observed as being highly active during the first year of life, affecting processes such as learning, memory and perception.
The charity Relieve Autism
notes that, from this research, it is hoped that these discoveries could be used to develop large-scale genetic scans for autism, as well as drugs that alleviate the symptoms of the condition.