Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New genetic ‘fishing net’ harvests elusive autism gene

07.02.2003


Duke University Medical Center researchers have developed a new statistical genetic "fishing net" that they have cast into a sea of complex genetic data on autistic children to harvest an elusive autism gene.



Moreover, the researchers said that the success of the approach will be broadly applicable to studying genetic risk factors for other complex genetic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

In this case, the gene, which encodes part of a brain neurotransmitter docking station called the gamma-Aminobutyric Acid Receptor beta3-subunit (GABRB3), has been implicated in autism previously, but never positively linked to the disease. Their findings will be published in the March 2003 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics and is now available on the Web at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v72n3/024607/024607.html.


"Many research groups have been actively looking for genetic risk factors that can lead to autism, but without much success," said Margaret Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., director of the Duke Center for Human Genetics and lead investigator of the study.

Autism is the common term that encompasses an overlapping group of complex developmental disorders that are diagnosed in about one in 1,000 children under the age of 3. Each autistic child has a unique set of characteristics that affect his or her behavior, communication skills and ability to interact with others. It is the very diverse, complex nature of autism that has made it so difficult to locate distinct genetic risk factors, said Pericak-Vance.

After several genetic studies turned up only a few vague genetic clues, the research team decided a new approach was needed. Pericak-Vance hypothesized that grouping patients with similar traits together statistically might enhance the scientists’ ability to distinguish relevant genetic risk factors. To provide guidance, the scientists turned to Michael Cuccaro, Ph.D., a clinical child psychologist at Duke with extensive experience diagnosing and treating autism. Cuccaro noticed that some but not all autistic children exhibit repetitive compulsions and extreme difficulty with changes to their daily routine. This character trait -- defined by Cuccaro as "insistence on sameness" or "IS" -- helped the research team identify a subset of autism family data to study in more detail.

Researchers, led by Yujun Shao, Ph.D., a genetic epidemiologist at Duke, reorganized data collected from families in which more than one child is affected by autism and grouped together all the families that reported their autistic child had difficulty with change.

Cuccaro’s theory that autistic children could be subdivided into at least two groups gave the team of scientists from Duke and the University of South Carolina an opportunity to test a new statistical method, called "ordered subset analysis," developed by Elizabeth Hauser, Ph.D., assistant research professor of medicine at Duke. This new genetic fishing net allows scientists to sift through complex genetic data and extract genetic risk factors that affect only some of the total group.

In this case, when the researchers applied the new test only to those families whose children scored high in the IS category, they discovered a strong link to the GABRB3 gene on chromosome 15q, where no such link had appeared before.

"This is the first successful application of ordered subset analysis to help us pinpoint a genetic risk factor that would be missed by looking at the larger group." said Pericak-Vance.

The researchers emphasize that this discovery is only the first step in understanding how the GABRB3 gene, or others genes in the same region of chromosome 15 might be involved in autism. Another clue may be gained from previous research that has shown the same area on chromosome 15 is just as responsible for Angelman Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome -- two genetic disorders in which a subset of affected children also exhibit repetitive behavior. Additional research will be necessary to understand how defects in the GABRB3 gene might contribute to autistic disorder, and how other genes or environmental factors also play a role.

"In the short term, however, I think what this will allow us to do is encourage clinicians and researchers working with autistic children to think about autism as consisting of different types or subgroups and not a one-dimensional disorder," said Cuccaro. "I think that subgrouping, over time, will allow us to develop a better understanding of how to treat each individual with autism."

This is a case, said Cuccaro, where identifying subsets of patients based on clinical observations has resulted in a significant neurobiological finding, and it perhaps is pointing a way to bring clinical observations to bear on complex genetic problems.

"The genomic revolution has given us a tremendous wealth of information in terms of a road map and markers for finding disease genes," said Pericak-Vance. "Now, we need to be able to look at complex clinical information and come up with methods that can help us dissect diseases that have multiple risk factors. This new statistical test will allow us to find meaningful genetic risk factors that are diluted out when tested as part of a larger heterogeneous group."


Members of the research team also included Marissa Menold, Chantelle Wolpert, Leigh Elston, Karen Decena, Shannon Donnelly, Robert DeLong, M.D., and John Gilbert, Ph.D., of Duke; and Sarah Ravan, Ruth Abramson and Harry Wright, M.D., of the W.S. Hall Psychiatric Institute at the University of South Carolina. The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Alliance of Autism Research.

Richard Puff | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://dukemednews.org/news/article.php?id=6385
http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/AJHG/journal/issues/v72n3/024607/024607.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

nachricht Pollen taxi for bacteria
18.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts

18.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Machine-learning predicted a superhard and high-energy-density tungsten nitride

18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Why might reading make myopic?

18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>