In search of genetic clues regarding autism spectrum disorder, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are launching a study focused on grandmothers. Autism has a strong genetic basis, and rates of the disorder may be higher in the grandchildren of women who had at least one child with an autism spectrum disorder than in the population as a whole. To test that hypothesis, the researchers plan to recruit a minimum of 500 grandmothers and soon-to-be grandmothers to complete questionnaires about their own children with autism, their other biological children and their biological grandchildren. The researchers want to better understand how to support families and help them understand the odds that some of their children may inherit the disorder.
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS HAVE A STRONG GENETIC COMPONENT, AND RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS ARE SURVEYING GRANDMOTHERS TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOW ITS PASSED DOWN IN FAMILIES. THE RESEARCHERS ARE RECRUITING WOMEN WHO HAD AT LEAST ONE CHILD WITH AUTISM, AND WHO NOW HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, TO SEE HOW RISK FOR THE DISORDER MAY BE PASSED THROUGH THE GENERATIONS. JIM DRYDEN HAS MORE
ALTHOUGH PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER DONT OFTEN HAVE CHILDREN THEMSELVES, SCIENTISTS KNOW THAT GENETICS PLAYS A BIG ROLE IN THE DISORDER. CURRENTLY, EXPERTS ESTIMATE THAT ABOUT ONE IN 68 CHILDREN WILL BE BORN WITH AN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER. TO LEARN ABOUT GENETIC RISKS, RESEARCHERS HAVE STUDIED PARENTS AND SIBLINGS OF THE KIDS WHO HAVE THE DISORDER, AND NOW, THEYRE RECRUITING GRANDMOTHERS TO LEARN EVEN MORE. WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CHILD PSYCHIATRIST NATASHA MARRUS.
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The project is called the Second Generation Survey Project. Were
recruiting women who are the biological mothers of a child with an
autism spectrum disorder, but who also have other children, who
themselves did not necessarily have autism, and who now are
THE HYPOTHESIS IS THAT IN FAMILIES WHERE AT LEAST ONE CHILD HAD AN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER, THERE MAY BE A GREATER RISK OF AUTISM IN SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS, EVEN IF THE PARENTS OF THOSE CHILDREN ARENT THE FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAD BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM. BY SURVEYING GRANDMOTHERS ABOUT THEIR GRANDKIDS, MARRUS AND HER COLLEAGUES HOPE TO LEARN WHETHER THAT THATS TRUE.
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Were curious to see what is the prevalence of autism in that
next generation so that we can better understand how to support
families, so they understand the risk that may be there.
ONE KEY ASPECT OF AUTISM IS THAT ALTHOUGH THE INCIDENCE OF DISORDERS SEEMS TO BE INCREASING THROUGHOUT THE POPULATION, THE PROBLEM IS STILL MUCH MORE LIKELY TO AFFECT BOYS THAN GIRLS. HOWEVER, GIRLS WITH A FAMILY HISTORY OF AUTISM MAY STILL BE AT A HIGHER RISK OF HAVING A CHILD OF THEIR OWN WHO HAS AUTISM.
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Girls, as many people know, are less likely to develop autism
themselves, however, its thought that they may carry the genetic
susceptibility to autism, which could then be passed on, to male
children in particular, at rates higher than would be expected in
the general population.
AND SHE SAYS ALTHOUGH THERE ARE SOME ENVIRONMENTAL RISK FACTORS, AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER MAINLY IS INHERITED.
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So there is a strong genetic basis for autism this isnt to
say that the environment doesnt matter, but a lot of what
contributes to autism is thought to be in genes which,
therefore, means that it can run in families.
MARRUS SAYS MANY RESEARCHERS BELIEVE AUTISM RISK CAN BE MASKED, PARTICULARLY IN GIRLS, AND THEN PASSED ON WHEN THOSE GIRLS GROW UP AND HAVE KIDS OF THEIR OWN.
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One of the very active areas of research is to figure out what
the level of this risk is and the biology that underlies this
risk because if we understand the biology that protects girls
from autism, then we might get some insights and clues into
markers that could help with diagnoses, as well as treatments.
ONE WAY TO FIGURE THAT OUT, SAYS MARRUS, IS TO ASK GRANDMOTHERS TO HELP EVALUATE THEIR GRANDKIDS, AND THATS WHAT THE RESEARCH TEAM IS DOING, RECRUITING AT LEAST 500 GRANDMOTHERS WHO HAD AT LEAST ONE CHILD WHO HAD AUTISM. IM JIM DRYDEN…