Brown Researchers Find Genetic Clue for Autism

Jul 8, 2013

Brown University researchers say they have discovered a possible genetic variation that can lead to autism and an intellectual disability. What’s more, the discovery may explain why one sibling can be affected while another isn’t.

Researcher Eric Morrow and his team found an intriguing pattern in the DNA of 500 children with autism and an intellectual disability.
Credit Mike Cohea / Brown University

Brown biology researcher Eric Morrow and his team analyzed DNA from more than 2100 children with autism born into families in which neither the parents nor siblings have the disorder. They were trying to learn more about the underlying genetic causes of autism coupled with a serious intellectual disability. What they found suggests that children with both disorders inherited copies of the same string of flawed DNA from each parent. Siblings without the disorder inherited only one copy.

How could both parents have the same copy of a string of flawed DNA to pass on? The researchers theorize that it’s because parents share a distant relative – maybe 40 generations back. The research won’t necessarily help doctors predict autism in children, but it could one day help explain why it has shown up in a particular family where it hasn’t before.

Learn more about the research.