According to the study, epigenetic changes, rather than actual DNA mutations, may be responsible for causing autism in children.
One of the study’s authors, Professor Daniel Fallin, told:
“This study shows the importance of epigenetics as an area of research for autism, not only in the child but for the parents at the time of conception and child birth.”
In the study, which was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the scientists carefully examined the changes to the “methylation patterns” found in the DNA of the sperm cells of the men involved in the research. They then correlated these epigenetic changes to the level of the symptoms of autism displayed by the men’s children.
Professor Fallin explains:
“The higher the methylation in the genes we looked at, the higher the score for observational risk for the autistic symptoms in the children.”
The researchers believe that their study provides a possible explanation as to why autism tends to run in families. But Professor Fallin adds:
“This is a pilot study on a small number of special patients so we’re not making any generalized statements on the causes of autism.”
Source: Steve Connor on The Independent website: DNA changes could explain why autism runs in families, according to study