PITTSBURGH, , Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The Autism Genome Project (AGP), an international consortium begun in 2002 to find the genetic causes of autism, is publishing its first set of results.
The goal of the recently completed first phase of the project was to assemble the largest collection of autism DNA known and complete a whole genome linkage scan.
The project took DNA samples from 1,200 families that had at least two autistic individuals and discovered that a previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 and a gene called neurexin 1 were heavily implicated in the disorder.
The group explained that neurexin 1 is a member of a gene family scientists think facilitates contact and communication between neurons and other regions of the genome. The findings also highlight the role of glutamate neurons, which make special use of the brain chemical glutamate, in autism spectrum disorders.
The research is being performed by more than 120 scientists at more than 50 institutions in 19 countries and is funded by the National Institutes of Health and Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits communication and social relationships and can create extreme behavioral problems. Some form of autism is diagnosed in one out of 166 children in the U.S. and affects four times as many boys as girls.
For more information, see the February 18 issue of Nature Genetics.