In an effort to better understand the cause of autism, Qatar’s Shafallah Medical Genetic Center is teaming up with international research teams to sequence the genomes of children afflicted with the disorder, as well as their parents.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. Its cause remains unknown, though diet and other factors may play a role, the US National Library of Medicine states. More people are now being diagnosed with the disorder, which typically manifests by the time children are three years old.
Some 23 families from Qatar and 33 families each from North America and China will have their genomes sequenced and compared to identify new mutations that may have occurred in autistic children that were not inherited from their parents, the Peninsula reports.
Identifying these “autism genes” would be a huge step forward, medically speaking, officials at Shafallah said, as quoted by the newspaper:
“This comprehensive and extensively detailed approach has not been attempted before, and the results will undoubtedly be ground breaking,” said Dr Hatem El Shanti, Managing Director of the Shafallah Genetics Medical Center.
Hassan Ali bin Ali, Chairman of the Shafallah Center, said… “It is hoped that this approach will identify the genetic cause of autism in about 50 percent of patients, currently the rate is 25 percent, and will identify novel genes that play a role in autism. We anticipate that results of the research will be published before the end of the year.”