Tipping The Scales Toward Environment Vs. Genetics In New Autism Research

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3-D printer model of DNA (WiddowQuinn/Flickr)
3-D printer model of DNA (WiddowQuinn/Flickr)

Autism is currently the fastest growing developmental disability in the nation. One in 110 children in the United States develops autism, but that ratio narrows to 1 in 5 if the child has an older sibling with the disorder.

So far the prevailing view among scientists is that genetic factors are to blame for autism. Most of the $1 billion spent on autism research in the last decade has gone to possible genetic links to the condition.

But a new study of identical and fraternal twins published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that environmental factors may play a greater role as a cause of autism.

In the study, researchers found that environmental factors accounted for some 55 percent of the cases of autism. The researchers also say that these outside factors may exert their biggest influences during early development --that is either pre-natal or in early post-natal life.

The study did not answer what exactly these environmental factors are, but this new research will pave the way for more studies on what besides genetic factors is causing this explosion of autism in the United States.


This segment aired on July 12, 2011.


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