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Autism. In recent years, scientists have identified rare genetic mutations that cause autism in young children. They have likewise found a large number of genetic changes that increase the risk that a child will develop this disorder.

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Introduction

Albert Kim In recent years, scientists have identified rare genetic mutations that cause autism in young children. They have likewise found a large number of genetic changes that increase the risk that a child will develop this disorder. However, fewer than 20 percent of those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show identifiable gene defects directly related to the disease (Akbarian). A new study provides strong evidence that, in some cases, the development of autism actually manipulates gene expression inside a cell. These developments of autism stem not from mutations in the genes themselves but from problems with proteins that help control gene expression inside a cell. ...read more.

Middle

Thus, if histone methylation occurs abnormally, disrupting normal gene expression in cells, there is an increased risk of autism. In terms of autism risk, environmental stresses might have their strongest effect in the womb or in the first months after birth, which are both crucial periods of brain development (Akbarian). In order to develop new therapies for autism, Akbarian claims, "we must first understand these biological changes on a molecular level." Scientists explain that autism is a biological disorder but not too much is known about its genetic or molecular makeup. To study the disorder on a molecular level, scientists have compared postmortem brain tissue donated by people who were diagnosed with autism with that of same-age persons who died without an autism diagnosis. ...read more.

Conclusion

Scientists compared the tissue sample of individuals diagnosed with an autism disorder with samples that underwent changes in the histone methylation. Researchers found that much of the genome was affected by an alteration of the histone methylationin the brain tissue from the autistic individuals. As a result, neurons from subjects with autism show changes in chromatin structures and reveal a considerable amount of overlapping genetic and epigenetic causes of developing brain disorders. The cause of these abnormalities remains unclear to many scientists and researchers, so these findings open up a new field for exploring possible causes and potential treatments for disabling forms of autism. Scientists now know that autism is caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Furthermore, they have found that environmental factors may be affecting the genes themselves, disrupting their normal function. ...read more.

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