, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 124-134
Date: 02 Jul 2014

Advances in Genetic Discovery and Implications for Counseling of Patients and Families with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) continues to increase. Genetic factors play an important role in the etiology of ASD, although specific genetic causes are identified in only a minority of cases. Recent advances have accelerated the discovery of genes implicated in ASD through convergent genomic analysis of genome-wide association studies, chromosomal microarray, exome sequencing, genome sequencing, and gene networks. Hundreds of candidate genes for ASD have been reported, yet only a handful have proven causative. Symptoms are complex and highly variable, and most cases are likely due to cumulative genetic factors, the interactions among them, as well as environmental factors. Here we summarize recent findings in genomic research regarding discovery of candidate genes, describe the major molecular processes in neural development that may be disrupted in ASD, and discuss the implication of research findings in clinical genetic diagnostic testing and counseling. Continued advances in genetic research will eventually translate into innovative approaches to prevention and treatment of ASD.