Study Yields More Clues About Autism

Scientists find genes needed for learning stuck in the off position
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2008 6:20 PM CDT
Cases of autism, mental retardation and other disabilities over time.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Scientists have found six new genes linked to autism, inching closer to a fuller understanding of the disorder and how to treat it, the AP reports. The genes in question are necessary for learning but are essentially stuck in the "off" position. The finding lends credence to the philosophy behind intensive education programs that seek to give the circuits an "extra push," said one expert. 

"People think of genetic diseases as immutable and untreatable," said one of the lead researchers of the study, which focused on large Mideast families prone to autism. "Studies like ours and others give more hope we might not need to replace genes one by one, but find other ways of activating the genes that might be silent."