Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New genetic study of Asperger syndrome, autistic traits and empathy

17.07.2009
Scientists from the University of Cambridge have identified 27 genes that are associated with either Asperger Syndrome (AS) and/or autistic traits and/or empathy. The research will be published tomorrow in the journal Autism Research. This is the first candidate gene study of its kind.

The research was led by Dr Bhismadev Chakrabarti and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen from the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. 68 genes were chosen either because they were known to play a role in neural growth, social behaviour, or sex steroid hormones (e.g. testosterone and estrogen).

The latter group of genes was included because AS occurs far more often in males than females, and because previous research from the Cambridge team has shown that foetal testosterone levels are associated with autistic traits and empathy in typically developing children.

The team carried out 2 experiments. First they looked at these genes in 349 adults in the general population, all of whom had filled in the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) as a measure of autistic traits, and the Empathy Quotient (EQ) as a measure of empathy. Secondly, they looked at 174 adults with a formal diagnosis of AS, and compared them to controls.

The research found that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 27 out of the 68 genes were nominally associated with either AS and/or with autistic traits/empathy. 10 of these genes (such as CYP11B1) were involved with sex steroid function, providing support for the role of this class of genes in autism and autistic traits. 8 of these genes (such as NTRK1) were involved in neural growth, providing further support to the idea that autism and autistic traits could result from aberrant patterns of connectivity in the developing brain. The other 9 genes (such as OXTR) were involved in social behaviour, shedding light on the biology of social and emotional sensitivity.

Dr Chakrabarti commented: "These 27 genes represent preliminary leads for understanding the genetic bases of AS and related traits, such as empathy, in the general population. All of these are good candidates for independent replication studies in both low and high functioning autism samples. 5 of the genes we found have been previously reported in autism, but the other 22 have never before been reported in association with AS, autistic traits or empathy. We now need to test models of how these genes interact and construct 'risk' models for the development of AS."

Professor Baron-Cohen added: "We chose to look at the genetics of AS because all other genetic studies have focused on classic autism, which can include learning difficulties and language delay. AS is a more 'pure' condition because these other factors are absent. These new results represent a significant advance over our previous work in showing that the sex steroid hormones (e.g. testosterone and oestrogen) influence social development and autistic traits. The new study also confirms earlier reports that other molecules (such as oxytocin) are important in understanding autism, autistic traits, and empathy."

For additional information please contact:
Genevieve Maul, Office of Communications, University of Cambridge
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 332300, +44 (0) 1223 765542
Mob: +44 (0) 7774 017464
Email: Genevieve.maul@admin.cam.ac.uk
Notes to editors:
1. The Autism Research Centre (ARC) is a group of scientists at Cambridge University (http://www.autismresearchcentre.com) who conduct basic biomedical research into causes of the condition, as well as population studies and intervention research.

2. The study was funded by Target Autism Genome, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, and the MRC (UK).

3. Asperger Syndrome (AS) is a subgroup on the autistic spectrum. The other major subgroup is classic autism. Autism Spectrum Conditions occur in about 1% of the population and are diagnosed on the basis of difficulties in social relationships, communication, and adjusting to change, alongside unusually narrow interests.

4. Full details of the study can be found in Chakrabarti, B, Dudbridge, F, Kent, L, Wheelwright, S, Hill-Cawthorne, G, Allison, C, Banerjee-Basu, S, & Baron-Cohen, S, (2009) Genes related to sex-steroids, neural growth and social-emotional behaviour are associated with autistic traits, empathy and Asperger Syndrome. Autism Research, online.

Genevieve Maul | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.cam.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New bioimaging technique is fast and economical

21.08.2017 | Medical Engineering

Silk could improve sensitivity, flexibility of wearable body sensors

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections

21.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>