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Autistic Genes No Longer a Risk Factor for Siblings?

Jaclyn Hughes

Autism and its growing popularity sure has taken over the globe; with thousands of children living with various forms of autism, what exactly does this entail for their siblings? Typically, the brothers and sisters of autistic little ones do not have the same risk factors involved. This wasn’t always reported as the case, in fact for years many parents were advised that if they had an autistic child the others or any to follow could potentially be at risk.

A group of scientists researching this exact theory; did having one autistic child equate any additional pregnancies in the family to be at risk for also linking to the ailment? In their study they reviewed data from 85 participants by utilizing a practice called “whole-genome sequencing”. This unique process breaks down biology in a much different fashion than research conducted in past decades. In using this method, they concluded that the previous theory of autism possibly being a genetic factor, wasn’t entirely the case. Each of the study participants were families that had two autistic children; could be any variation of boys or girls as the gender didn’t ever truly play a factor with the biology.

They’ve found that while autism diagnosed children are on the rise in a global capacity, the relevance of one older sibling strengthening the probability of a younger one developing the social disorder was an exasperated thought. Their most astounding conclusion was that the practical odds of autism developing in more than one child in the family was roughly 1 in 10,000! Additional details of their in-depth study can be found in the publication “Nature Medicine”, if you wish to really dive into the specifics of it, which is likely for many parents where autism is a factor in their homes.

We recently detailed the Signs of Autism in a 10 part series that reviewed the common symptoms those dealing with autism would endure.

A neurologist named Helen Tager-Flusberg commented on the discovery and hit the nail right on the head; “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”. Experts seem to all share the same opinion on the issue, that prior to this study they expected a shared inheritance between the siblings. In the past once digging deep into the data, it seems as if the genes were in place but resulted in no formidable issues with other relatives.

Specialists from various hospital affiliations have not been shy commenting on this new study’s findings- “The study is very well designed, the end result is somewhat surprising, and it reiterates the complexity of the underlying genetics of autism,” remarked Dr. Yong-hui Jiang who works with the pediatric department as an associate professor at the coveted Duke University.

Autism Speaks put up the funds to make this study possible, a study they must have found imperative to seek the results from as it happens to be the first research project they have jumped onboard with. Autism is a social disorder on the forefront of everyone’s minds whether they are in the medical field or not, seeing that this has become such a massive health issue for children everywhere.

There has also been a rise in families with more than one autistic child where one of them will have a severe case of the disorder, and the other will have a very minor, or highly functioning variance of it. Some have their own theories on this, that perhaps once parents have an autistic child they overanalyze any that follow nearly categorizing a child that perhaps doesn’t entirely fall into an autism category. No parent wants their child to be diagnosed with this, however when they are being evaluated at such young ages as 2 or 3, the vast majority of the information being conveyed to the medical team is provided by the parents. It isn’t as if there is a magical test with lab work that confirms the disorder.

With all of these variables in place as far as testing is concerned, in addition to the newest research findings we won’t be seeing an decrease in the number of children being diagnosed, but you may see a less assumptive team going into the diagnostic phase with those young and old questioning their own social habits going forward.

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