SEATTLE, May 12 (UPI) -- Research increasingly shows autism is caused by groups of genetic mutations, with study after study finding that at least some of these mutations can be passed down from parents to their children.
The most recent study to focus on mutations reviewed data on more than 2,700 families and showed that parents without autism can possess and pass on genetic mutations that in many cases cause autism.
Data was analyzed using exome sequencing, which is made up only of the protein-coding genes of a genome, comparing the genes of people with autism to people without, including within families. The analysis showed that missing and mutated genes which can cause autism can be passed on from parents to children. Specifically, certain mutations were shown to be more prevalent when passed from a non-autistic mother to her son.
The study also offered researchers an additional opportunity to compare DNA from family members with and without autism because of the near complete genetic picture of the disability.
"The ability to examine these two types of genetic variation in exome sequencing data is the first step toward obtaining a more complete genetic picture at an individual level in the context of autism," study authors Niklas Krumm and Tychele Turner, of the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences, said in a press release.
The goal of the study, published this week in the journal Nature Genetics, was to help further understand the biology of how autism develops as the search for new treatments marches on.
"These findings are a major advance in understanding the genes that play a role in autism," said Raphael Bernier, clinical director of Seattle Children's Autism Center and one of the researchers who participated in the study. "Knowing more about these genes will set the stage for personalized medicine by allowing for targeted treatments specific to an individual. This gives parents more insight and information about their child's condition."