NASET News Alert

Gene for Brain Networks Tied to Autism

March 19, 2008

A gene that helps the brain make connections may underlie a significant number of autism cases, researchers in the United States reported on Tuesday.  Disruptions in the gene, called contactin 4, stop the gene from working properly and appear to stop the brain from making proper networks, the researchers reported in the Journal of Medical Genetics.  These disruptions, in which the child has either three copies of the gene or just one copy when two copies is normal, could account for up to 2.5 percent of autism cases, said Dr. Eli Hatchwell of Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York, who led the study. "That is a significant number," said Hatchwell. "Generally the mistake that people make is they are looking for one unifying cause for autism, and there is no such thing and there never will be," Hatchwell said in a telephone interview.  He said his finding adds to the list of potential tests for autism, and perhaps treatments for a range of conditions known as autism spectrum disorders. 

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