Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs social interaction, communication and behavior, tends to run in families. According to the National Institutes of Health, families with one autistic child have a one in five chance of having a second child with the disorder.
Scientists have long suspected a genetic underpinning for autism, but have had difficulty finding the link. Previous studies in families with identical twins have found that when one twin has autism, the odds are relatively strong that the other will too.
But the latest research — one of the largest studies to date — goes beyond twin studies, using cutting edge technology to examine and compare the DNA from more than 12,000 individuals affected by autism. Scientists pooled data together to gather a sample large enough.
Research Holds Promise for Future Cure
Erica Romano of Brooklyn, N.Y., volunteered her family for the study. As a mother of two sons with autism, Romano has strong convictions that autism involves genes.
“I have a third cousin who has Aspergers and a first cousin who has PDD/autism,” she told ABC News. “I’m really hoping that this study sheds some light on the genetic factor.”