In a study published in Translational Psychiatry, research led by Hyejung Won, PhD, and Jason Stein, PhD, assistant professors in the UNC Department of Genetics and members of the UNC Neuroscience Center, found that lowered expression of a gene called DDHD2 may increase a person’s likelihood of autism.

Spectrum News, a leading source of news and expert opinion on autism research, featured the results of this work here.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The researchers arrived at this conclusion via a genome-wide association study (GWAS), an approach used to identify common variants — in the form of single-letter changes to DNA that are found in more than 1 percent of the population — linked to autism.

Scientists have identified many rare variants associated with autism, but together these account for only a small fraction of all cases and often occur spontaneously, so they cannot fully explain why autism tends to run in families.

Common variants, by contrast, account for more than 50 percent of autism’s heritability, says Won, co-senior author with Stein. “That’s why we thought it would be super important to understand this class of variation.” Full article here.