Research Autism Cautions New Research Findings Identifying a Gene for Autism

Date: 29th April 2009

Three major studies have today pinpointed genetic mechanisms underlying the cause of some autistic disorders, two of the new studies were American led by Dr Hakon Hakonarson, director of the centre for applied genomics at the children's hospital of Philadelphia, published in online journal Nature and the third was conducted by British scientists at Oxford university and appears in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry.

Research Autism welcomes all scientific research concerning autism but would advise caution on these results as they may not contain the answers some may seek.

Research Autism works closely with the autism community and where possible involves individuals on the autism spectrum in their work. It has been supporting ethical research into autism interventions since its inception in 2003.

Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism says:

"These new research results are significant - one study was the largest investigation of its kind conducted in the US, which involved analysing the DNA of almost 13,000 people including many from families affected by autism. However, we should not over simplify the matter and should read these findings with some caution as the research did not answer many important questions and the results do not identify a single gene for autism.

"What these studies do positively improve on is our overall understanding of how genes interact with each other and how they influence connections within the brain, but it is not groundbreaking in the sense of providing definitive results concerning which genes are implicated and their interaction with the overall environment.

"Many genes are involved in causing autism, Dr. Hakonarson, himself says: "...In most cases, it's likely that each gene contributes a small amount of risk and interacts with other genes and environmental factors to trigger the onset of disease."

"The exact causes of autism remain unknown, but these new findings do provide valuable pieces of the jigsaw, which is far from complete, in our understanding of the incredibly complex range of conditions that make up the autism spectrum. Whilst we do not know the causes we do know that with correct and timely intervention the quality of life and outlook can be much improved. Research Autism therefore welcomes these findings and hopes that they will allow scientists to focus on further research that will inform helpful interventions.

"There are a vast number of treatments in use, some of which are helpful but most of which have not been scientifically evaluated and maybe expensive, ineffective and potentially harmful. Research Autism aims to provide families of children and adults on the spectrum with scientifically researched, evidence-based evaluations of such interventions.

"The annual cost of autism in the UK is just under £28 billion*. Research Autism believes it is imperative to commission further ethical research which makes a difference to improving the quality of life for the 500,000 or so people affected by autism in the UK."


For any media enquiries please contact: Deepa Korea on 020 86170536 or 07723 606629 or email press@researchautism.net

Notes to Editors

Research Autism is the only UK charity that is solely focused on improving the quality of life of those on the autistic spectrum through the origination and funding of research into interventional treatments and therapies. The website

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