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Summer-Fall 2001
Vol. 64, No. 1

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Autism's Origins: New Clues


Researchers trying to decipher the origins of autism have a new genetic clue after a team at the Medical Center became the first to identify a gene that may predispose people to develop the early childhood disorder.

Led by Patricia Rodier, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, the team identified a link between a gene that plays
a crucial role in early brain development and autism.

Dow Named Neilly Dean

Ronald Dow, dean of River Campus Libraries since 1996, was installed as the first Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries. Life Trustee Andrew Neilly '47, a former president, CEO, and vice chairman of the board of John Wiley & Sons in New York City, and his wife, Janet Dayton Neilly, established the chair through a $1 million gift.

The team's study on the role of the gene, known as HOXA1, was published in the December issue of the journal Teratology.

The researchers tested blood samples collected from 57 people diagnosed with autism to determine if they possessed a variant form of the HOXA1 gene. Of these, 22 people-about 40 percent-had one copy of the variant gene.

An estimated one in 500 people are affected by autism or a related disorder. Pinpointing its origins have been difficult because several genes, as well as fetal exposure to toxic chemicals early in pregnancy, are thought to play a role. Identifying the HOXA1 gene as a culprit could be the first step toward developing strategies to treat and prevent the disorder.


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