Project to search for autism gene

A global research project is aiming to pin down the genetic causes of autism by studying 6,000 DNA samples from families affected by the brain disorder.
The US National Alliance for Autism Research project involves 170 experts from the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.
Researchers will use a new technology called DNA microarray to scan the human genome to locate key genes.
UK experts said the research offered “great hope”, but added environmental factors were also a likely cause.
Over the next six months, the researchers will analyse 6,000 DNA samples from families where two children have an autism spectrum disorder. Their parents’ DNA will be analysed as part of the study.
The “gene chip” which they are using to carry out the DNA microarray testing contains thousands of strands of synthetic DNA, allowing genetic patterns which are common to the families to be identified.
Results from the study, believed to be the largest study into autism genes in history, are likely to be available in early 2005.
Around 535,000 people in the UK have an autism spectrum disorder.

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