Friday, June 11, 2010

UCD and Trinity lead way in Autism research

A huge study into the genetics of autism has found that some genetic variations are more common in autistic children. Scientists from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin are amongst a group of 50 collaborating institutions who made the discovery.

The findings, published this week in Nature included the Irish component of the work which focused on the identification and study of children with autism across Ireland and the study of the genetic variation between autistic individuals and their families.

Researchers compared genetic variation in 1,000 individuals with autism plus their family and compared this information to a control sample of 1,300 people without autism.

Individuals with autism were shown to have submicroscopic sections of DNA that occur more often (duplications) or less often (deletions), called copy number variants (CNV) in their genome. These are also found as frequently as individuals with no autism, but in autism they are more likely to disrupt certain genes and in particular those previously reported to be associated with autism or intellectual disabilities.

The researchers also identified new autism susceptibility genes. A spokeperson for UCD said these results would have a positive impact on the treatment of autism: "These findings will help researchers better understand the brain mechanisms involved in autism and could become targets that may lead to the development of new treatment approaches".

Dr. Sean Ennis of UCD noted that "because of matching investment by the Irish government through the Health Research Board, over half of the laboratory work for this project was carried out in Ireland.

"The results show that Irish researchers and Ireland can truly contribute to scientific discovery on the global stage", continued Dr.Ennis.


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