Genetics and Environmental Factors Share a 50/50 Role in ASD Development

Scientists are now stating that environmental factors play just as an important role in the development of Autism as genetics. According to the largest analysis to date, the environment plays a much more important factor than previously thought. The study was prompted by a common question by parents, “If I have a child with Autism, what is the risk that my next child will, too?”

Previous studies stated that genetics may play up to 90% of a role in the development of ASD, but this research states that it may play a significantly smaller role, with environmental factors having a much stronger effect. This new study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests that genetics is only half the reason why children may develop Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), while the other 50% can be attributed to environmental factors such as birth complications, socio-economic status, parental health, and lifestyle. Although the exact cause of Autism development is unknown, evidence has shown that this range of environmental factors can have a significant link.

Researchers with the Karolina Institute looked at the health records studied over 2 million individuals born between 1982 and 2006. They identified 14,516 as having an Autism disorder. The study examined pairs of family members, such as siblings, identical twins, half-siblings, and cousins. The results showed that there is an elevated risk in developing Autism among children who had a family member affected by ASD. They discovered that children with a sibling with Autism are 10 times more likely to develop the condition themselves. Additionally, children are 3 times more likely to develop Autism if they have a half-brother or half-sister with ASD, and twice as likely if they have a first cousin with ASD.

By studying these families, researchers were better able to estimate the effects of genetics combined with environmental factors. Professor Avi Reichenberg of Mount Sinai Seaver Center for Autism Research states, “Recent research efforts have tended to focus on genes, but it’s now clear that we need much more research to focus on identifying what exactly these environmental factors are. There will be many different environmental factors contributing to the development of Autism.”

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing other significant Autism research and medical advances in NYC on June 30th to July 2nd. Several notable speakers will be in attendance, including Dr. Gary Steinman, Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Steinman, who has presented for ICare4Autism at previous conferences, will be presenting his research on what may contribute to the development of Autism, on July 1st. This is an Autism conference you will not want to miss! Early Bird Ticket specials are going on now! To see the other speakers that will be presenting at the conference, and to select your tickets, please click here!

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