Swiss study tips ‘autism gene’

Researchers in Lausanne have identified a gene thought to be involved in autism and schizophrenia.


A team of researchers from the University of Lausanne and the University Hospital in the canton of Vaud have identified the human gene “KCTD 13”, the absence of which could be the cause of conditions such as autism, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.

In 2009, a 16-year-old autism patient visited Professor Jacques Beckmann at the Faculty of Biology and Medicine. He together with two other researchers, Sebastien Jacquemont and Alexandre Reymond, decided to expand their research, and they began to conduct studies involving both zebrafish and mice embryos.

They identified and studied a short genetic sequence, noting that certain changes seemed to correspond with certain conditions.

They noted that a repetition of the sequence related to abnormal thinness and small head size as well as to schizophrenia. In contrast, they found that where the sequence was lacking entirely, patients were predisposed to suffer from severe obesity, abnormal largeness of head size, and autism.

The results of the study appeared on Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

“We are still far from a possible treatment,” Jacques Beckmann told the newspaper.

“We still need to determine whether other genes are involved, and how it works. But it is a necessary first step.”

Parallel research carried out by a team in the USA led by Nicholas Katsanis from the Duke University Medical Centre, was published on Wednesday.

The study also found a relationship between the presence or absence of the KCTD13 gene with head size and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and autism.

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