Monday, 24 November 2014 11:00

Understanding Autism: Nature vs. Nurture

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A recent study from Sweden shows that genetics play a larger role in the development of autism than environmental factors. Although in America there has been a “vaccine causes autism” debate for several years now, this most recent study found 52 percent of autism risk comes from common genes, while only 2.6 percent are attributed to spontaneous mutations.

Researchers compared approximately  3,000 autistic and non-autistic people in Sweden, the largest study of its kind to date. Published in the  journal, Nature Genetics, this study reveals autism to be more like physical attributes  than we previously thought.

Co-lead investigator Kathryn Roeder said, “From this study, we can see that genetics plays a major role in the development of autism... many small risk factors add up, each pushing a person further out on the spectrum.” The presence of the common genes only determines the risk for autism, it does not conclusively determine if the condition will or will not develop.

In the United States, about 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism disorders range from social and communication disabilities to behavioral difficulties.

Knowing more about how autism naturally occurs will help  researchers focus their search for clues relative to the molecular roots of the disorder. As scientists gather more and more data, it’s hoped that new research will help develop “risk scores” that would allow parents to better determine the likelihood of autism development.

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