Article: Search on for the key to autism

© Fairfax NZ News

A team of world-leading Kiwi scientists are vying to unlock the secrets of "Rain Man" - tracking down the gene responsible for autism.

Researchers from Auckland University have joined an international race to unlock the underlying biological causes of the disorder, a condition estimated to affect 45,000 New Zealanders.

To complete the work, the geneticists are hoping that all New Zealanders on the autism spectrum will register on their database as part of a campaign named Minds For Minds.

Some will then be contacted to have their human genome sequenced.

Lead scientist Professor Russell Snell said it was hoped the analysis would help them understand the complex condition responsible for a broad spectrum of behavioural and intellectual disabilities.

Far from the Hollywood image of autistic people having genius talents as seen in the Dustin Hoffman movie Rain Man, most diagnosed with autism have intellectual impairment, may not be able to speak and many will not be able to live independent lives.

"This is not pure research or just for geeks. I see this work very much as a way of practically making life easier for families or individuals dealing with autism," Snell said.

"In our best dreams, patterns may be seen and people will be better disposed to learn what is ahead for them. It doesn't have to end up with a drug."

The project will also rely on public fundraising for the sequencing and analysis of the DNA.

To view the rest of this article, please visit the following link: