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Half sibs give clues to autism


When a child has autism, it increases the odds that siblings will also have the disorder. New research shows the risk extends to half siblings as well.

This discovery could give clues to how autism is inherited. According to the principal investigator, John N. Constantino, MD, the new research adds to recent evidence that even though autism is more common in males, females still inherit and pass the gene.

“We found that autism risk for half siblings is about half of what it is for full siblings,” he said. “Most of the half siblings we studied had the same mothers. Given that half of the risk of transmission was lost and half was preserved among those maternal half siblings, mothers and fathers appear to be transmitting risk equally in families in which autism recurs.”

The findings also suggest that in many families, the transmission of autism is the result of the effects of many genes, not just one, with each contributing a small risk. Past studies have looked at the twin ratios of inheriting autism, but there are many factors which make those studies difficult to read. Other studies focus on the siblings of children with autism. To glean more information on genetic structure from their family studies, Constantino’s group looked at autism recurrence in half siblings.

“If transmission of autism risk was occurring equally from unaffected mothers and fathers, you would predict that maternal half sibling’s risk of autism would be about half of what we saw in full siblings,” said Constantino. “And that’s exactly what we found.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Molecular Psychiatry

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