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A Step Closer to Answers on Autism

​Potentially groundbreaking research showing that a child’s chance of developing autism is related to the age of a father was funded in part by a Recovery grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The nearly $4.2 million grant from NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health was awarded to a team of researchers at the Harvard/MIT Broad Institute, Yale University, and the University of Washington, Seattle.

While research has repeatedly and conclusively determined that variations in DNA passed from parent to child play a substantial role in causing autism spectrum disorders (ASD), previous efforts to pinpoint the genetic factors met with limited success.

The team receiving the grant formed an unprecedented partnership between experts at DNA sequencing facilities and researchers focused on the genetics of autism. All team members worked together using major new advances in DNA sequencing technology.

As a result, scientists were able to isolate for the first time specific genetic mutations or glitches that are passed from fathers and dramatically increase the likelihood a child will develop some type of ASD. Moreover, the research showed that as a man ages, particular after 35, the number of such genetic glitches he transmits rises.

The research findings were published in an April 2012 issue of the international science journal Nature.

Ribbon and Gene Collage
Defects or glitches in the NLGN4X gene, located on the short arm of the X chromosome at position 22.33, are linked to autism.

More Details on the Research

NIMH Information on Autism Spectrum Disorders

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