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Autism and Genetics: SPARK, MSSNG, and TBR1

At Autism Academy, a school for children with autism, the focus is on the most current research in this field. As any person who follows autism-related research, there must be awareness of the genetic analysis that has emerged. Alongside neural research and the studies on environmental factors, the facts that are known about autism have increased. As an institute that focuses on autism education, Autism Academy, wants to ensure that everyone is informed about the furtherment in this field.

What You Need To Know

In the past week, there have been a flurry of genetic research-related news, ranging from the largest-ever genetics study being announced to new gene networks and genome research.

For instance, as the rate of autism diagnoses have increased, so has insight into the different causal factors, such as researchers being able to attribute 30 percent of autism diagnoses to a variety of different genetics mutations. Now, researchers have received the funding to embark on the largest-ever genetic study with the goal of collecting genetic information from 50,000 people with autism and their family members. Researchers with SPARK, or the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge, hopes to contribute to this discovery process by doing whole exome sequencing of individuals, which is a very expensive and time-consuming effort to analyze a person’s genetic markers. Past studies have led to the discovery of about 50 genes associated with autism and researchers believe that 300 or more will be found.

“This is the best clinical genetic testing,” said Dr. Craig Erickson, associate professor of psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, who is leading recruitment efforts in this region. “You would get it if you could get it for every kid with autism. … It’s what we would always have wanted to do.” Through the Simon Foundation’s billion dollar endowment, researchers finally have the funding for a study of this scale.

The MSSG Program

Autism Speaks has also recently announced a major breakthrough in their MSSNG program. This program seeks to expand our understanding of autism’s complex causes. The new research focuses on new arising gene changes that produce a parent’s egg or sperm since past studies have shown how these mutations can majorly contribute to autism.

MSSNG boasts 600 fully sequenced genomes, which is the world’s largest collection of autism genomes and aims to fully sequence 10,000 autism genomes when all is said and done. In addition, MSSNG has made their research available to all to assist in global research into the cause of autism.

A New Study

Finally, in our round-up of recent genetic breakthroughs, a new study focuses on TBR1, a protein that helps orchestrate brain development, binding at areas close to 25 genes that have been found to have strong links to autism. The new study identifies TBR1 as a “master regulator” and while it has strong ties to autism, it also control the expression of many other autism gene candidates. According to Stephan Sanders at the University of California, San Francisco, “This paper is exactly what needs to be done: Just going through consistently one gene after the other and seeing exactly what it’s regulating.” He went on to express his hope that other genetic studies will follow this model.

Autism Education

At schools for autism, there is an emphasis on supporting autism-related research and making sure that it’s continued to help both the families and teachers, as well as the students. Due to autism-related research, we are able to build on autism education with the teaching techniques we incorporate that are appropriate for our students. For any questions about please contact Autism Academy.