Latest News » Study: Autistic siblings exhibit different, rather than similar, genetic risks

Siblings with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to exhibit different, rather than similar, genetic mutations, according to a new study.

Siblings with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to exhibit different, rather than similar, genetic mutations, according to a new study.

While autism research has come a long way in just the last 10 years, we're still only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding what exactly causes this condition, who may be most at risk for it and why. One new study highlights an incredible new finding about the nature of siblings who both have autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), revealing that, despite the familial connection, autistic siblings within the same family actually exhibit different, rather than similar, genetic risk patterns.

The New York Times reports that the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, surveyed pairs of siblings with ASDs from 85 different families and analyzed their genomes for "genetic glitches" that could indicate risk factors for autism. While about 30 percent of the 85 tested sibling pairs did share the same genetic mutation associated with ASDs, 70 percent did not. 

Although the survey sample in a study like this is still much too small to drawer conclusions about the larger population of people with ASDs — with the Times noting that the scientists would need to analyze the genomes of tens of thousands of autistic sibling pairs to better substantiate these findings — what this research does point to is the incredible diversity found among ASDs and their causes, even between close blood relatives like siblings. It could also significantly change how scientists rely on genome mapping and genetic analysis in determining ASD risk.

"This study makes us step back and realize we're not necessarily going to get as much predictive value out of genetic mapping as we thought," Helen Tager-Flusberg, a Boston University development neuroscientist who was unaffiliated with the research team, told the Times.

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