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Chromosome flaw "linked to autism"

Experts have highlighted an autism and schizophrenia risk for people whose chromosome 17 contains damaged DNA.

The research, led by scientists at Emory University in Atlanta in the US, found the stretch of genetic damage among people with the conditions.

Scientists had already established a link between autism, schizophrenia and genetic issues.

However, the US team was looking at rare copy number variations (CNVs) - insertions or deletions of genomic material.

It was already known that genetic variations feature in the two conditions, but this is the first time researchers have identified a specific, high-risk CNV.

The research was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Experts analysed the DNA of more than 23,000 patients with autism, developmental delay, intellectual disability or schizophrenia.

They detected a recurrent deletion on a region of chromosome 17 in 24 of these patients.

No such deletion was detected in any of the 52,000-plus healthy people acting as controls.

One of the authors on the study, Dr David Ledbetter, said someone with this deletion was almost 14 times more likely to develop autism or schizophrenia than a person without it.

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The National Autistic Society