The Autism Puzzle: Is a Solution to Understanding Close At Hand?

Autism Puzzle

Picture credit: Wikipedia

It seems the number of children diagnosed with autism each year is on the rise. Nearly four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with the condition and still, no one knows why. However, the solution to the question of what causes autism is growing nearer and nearer, which brings with it the implication of genetic tests and possible treatments.

Looking at Genetics to Solve the Autism Puzzle

In order to predict the onset of autism and to formulate the most effective treatment programs, geneticists have taken to locating the gene responsible for this condition. In fact, the “autism gene” may be located on chromosome 17. However, there are about 50 genes located in this area, which requires diligent searching on behalf of scientists to find precisely which one is responsible for the onset of autism.

As promising as this notion is, it will still only be able to predict a small percentage of autism cases.

Environmental Factors

Since genetics may only account for about 10% of all autism cases, the rest of the blame is likely placed on the environment. However, this is even more complicated to determine since a wide variety of factors play into the development of an individual. Preliminary studies have shown that children that were born prematurely, that were born in the breech position, or that have a family history of schizophrenia were found to have a higher incidence of autism.

It’s still unclear as to whether or not things like mercury exposure and exposure to other toxins plays a role in the development of autism. Very likely, it will be a combination of several factors that will ultimately solve the autism puzzle.

The Solution Lies at the Convergence of Nature and Nurture

While much study still must be done, preliminary results of a study conducted at the University of California, Davis, showed that children with autism have immune system, protein, and metabolite differences in the blood. It’s still not clear if both the environment and genetics cause autism, but if they do, this could lead to the development of an autism blood test, as well as the implementation of treatment before a child begins exhibiting symptoms like the avoidance of eye contact and an obsession with patterns and puzzles.

Autism is a complex disease and it will likely have an equally complex solution.

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