Lifewatch: Autism

CHICAGO -- Chicago researchers have discovered new genetic links to autism.

They believe nine in ten children with autism have some genetic basis for their disease.

The problem is, they've only just scratched the surface in finding the genetic mutations.

But now, studies done in Boston and in Chicago have found a branch of abnormal genes that increase the risk of a child developing autism by about 100 times.

"The child is missing that piece of chromosome 16 from the mother," said Dr. Susan Christian.

Dr. Christian is part of a team at the University of Chicago that is using new technology to find missing links in an autistic child's DNA.  Links that are so small, they can't even be seen in a microscope.

"Six of them look like they might be involved in brain development that we are now studying further in other autism patients," said Dr. Christian.

The next step will be a blood test for parents.  If a couple already has one child with autism, the test would tell them if another child would also have the disease.

"There's a lot of ongoing research to try to understand these environmental affects for autism. It's not likely to be one particular abnormality. We still think it's strongly genetic," said Dr. Christian.

Researchers are finding more and more genetic links to autism.  To read the original article from the University of Chicago on chromosome 16, click here.

Reported by Kristy Ondo