Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Autism and Genetics

LOS ANGELES -- Autism is an environmental illness -- at least in some cases. Just as lead paint chips can cause learning disabilities and radon in the basement can cause lung cancer, certain chemicals and other outside influences seem to help set autism in motion.

But autism is also a genetic disease. It definitely runs in families, and scientists have identified several specific genes that put kids at risk.

Scientists are trying to understand this complicated push and pull that molds a growing brain. A new study of twins published in the Archives of General Psychiatry makes a case that the disease is about 60% environmental and 40% genetic. Other experts quickly disputed the finding, claiming that genes are the biggest driver of autism.

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