Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Autism Spectrum Disorder chromosome study

UNDERSTANDING the behaviour of people with autism might have come a step closer after an exciting discovery by Cambridge scientists.
Researchers at The Babraham Institute identified a gene which is associated with rigid behaviour patterns which continue even when it no longer makes sense to behave in that way.
The four-year research could lead to new insights into why men and women think and behave differently, and into why the two sexes display such marked differential vulnerabilities to certain mental problems, such as autism.
At conception we receive one copy of genes (located on our chromosomes) from the DNA in our father's sperm and one copy from the DNA in our mother's egg.
For the vast majority of our approximately 30,000 genes, both copies are active in equal measure in our tissues.
But there is a small subset of genes, known as "imprinted genes", where this is not the case and only one copy is active. In some imprinted genes only the copy from dad is active and in others only the copy from mum.
These genes appear to be very important, especially in terms of growth, mental health and cancer.
Dr Lawrence Wilkinson and his team found mice which inherited the X chromosome from their mother showed inflexible behaviours, similar to that seen in people with autism or schizophrenia.
Dr Wilkinson said: "This is exciting work as it shows that mum and dad, through the action of imprinted genes on the X chromosome, may be influencing the behaviour of their offspring differentially.
"We also now have a new mechanism to help explain why the risk of developing certain mental disorders can depend on your sex, such as the much increased risk of developing autism if you are a boy