Detecting Autism Before Kids Turn Two

Computer model takes Australia a step closer toward a molecular characterization of autism that promises early detection of the disorder.

AsianScientist (Jun 12, 2014) – A team of scientists from Australia has conducted a study on genome sequences of Australian families, detecting autism-risk genes whose identification will help diagnose children under two years of age with the disorder.

At present, diagnosis of autism is based solely on behavioral profiling of the child, teenager or adult, in a costly and lengthy process involving many specialists. However, scientists believe that certain DNA may be overrepresented in autism, which could be profiled in a gene network model and could be detected through gene sequencing.

The team, led by Associate Professor Charles Claudianos of the Queensland Brain Institute at The University of Queensland, applied a computer model to examine and analyze some 4000 genes of Australian families. They found that parents with mild autism-like behaviors, such as social difficulties, carried autism-risk genes that may be passed on to their children.

The research, which was published in Nature: Translational Psychiatry, demonstrated the way in which a complex gene network model could be used to determine specific genetic pathways linked to autism.

“The software helps us make sense of the millions of pieces of information provided by the genes, and understand how these may lead to a person developing autism,” explained Associate Professor Claudianos.

According to Australia’s Autism Cooperative Research Center Director Professor Andrew Whitehouse, the research “will provide a comprehensive road map to accurately diagnose autism in children under two years of age – for the first time.”

The article can be found at: An et al. (2014) Towards a molecular characterization of autism spectrum disorders: an exome sequencing and systems approach.
Source: The University of Queensland.
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Alan Aw is a maths enthusiast who likes sharing the fun and beauty of science with others. Besides reading, he enjoys running, badminton, and listening to (and occasionally playing) Bach or Zez Confrey.

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