Researchers at the University of California, Davis published in Genome Biology the identification of a gene linked to fetal brain development and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
For the study, researchers employed genomic sequencing to establish a DNA methylation signature in the placenta of newborns that would subsequently be diagnosed with autism.
“We use whole genome bisulfite sequencing in placenta samples from prospective ASD studies to discover a previously uncharacterized ASD risk gene, LOC105373085, renamed NHIP,” according to the journal article.
“NHIP overexpression increases cellular proliferation and alters expression of genes regulating synapses and neurogenesis, overlapping significantly with known ASD risk genes and NHIP-associated genes in ASD brain,” the authors explained.
“A common structural variant disrupting the proximity of NHIP to a fetal brain enhancer is associated with NHIP expression and methylation levels and ASD risk, demonstrating a common genetic influence.”
The study indicated that the use of prenatal vitamins during the first month of pregnancy may result in a significant protective effect and could be essential when planning a pregnancy.
“Prenatal vitamins use during the first month of pregnancy showed a significant protective effect among individuals with genetic differences at 22q13.33 NHIP region,” a news release of the findings state.
“Findings from our study provide key insights that may help in identifying newborns more likely to develop autism and getting them into an earlier intervention or just knowing to watch them sooner.”