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The Science Journal of the Lander College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Ever since the mid 1980’s when Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) started to become increasingly prevalent, researchers have been trying to find a possible cause for it. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that manifests itself in children who are between 18-30 months old. People with autism have reduced social skills, and they have a difficult time communicating verbally and non-verbally. Autism is diagnosed through a questionnaire and other instruments that allow psychologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, neurologists and many other doctors to determine if a child has a form of ASD. There are many theories about what causes autism. It has been widely believed that vaccines, specifically the MMR vaccine causes autism, but that theory has been disproven. Another possibility is the role genetics plays in ASD. Many studies have been done to determine which genes might cause autism. Because of the heterogeneity of the symptoms and behaviors of people with autism and general genetic complexity it has been hard to find a specific genetic cause of autism. While a confirmed gene has not been determined to cause autism many studies have been done, some using whole-exome sequencing (WES) to see if mutations in parent’s genes caused their children to have autism. It is also possible that autism can be caused by hereditary or parental factors. There have also been theories that environmental factors play a role in autism such as exposure to tobacco, pollutants, and metals, and including maternal conditions that could affect the fetus. While many of the studies were inconclusive, and a confirmed cause of autism has not been found, the studies do show that genetics does play a major role in ASD, though more studies will have to be done to determine how and which genes cause it.

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