Autism is a genetic condition that affects both males and females, but a recent study suggests that women have a special protection against this disorder that men lack.
For a person to become autistic there must be a genetic mutation. Sometimes it only takes a mutation in one gene, but normally it is a group of mutations that end up causing autism. In fact, throughout the years, there’s been hundreds of mutations discovered that have the ability of causing it. But now we know that the number of genes that cause autism in humans can be different depending on gender.
This difference because of sex was found out by a group of scientists in the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland, where more than 700 families with a child with autism were tested, and their genome analysed.
They were looking for two different types of mutations: copy number variations (where large parts of the genetic material is destroyed or duplicated) and single gene mutations. The conclusion was females were three times more likely to have more of these mutations than males.
The fact that girls have to have more mutations to contract this condition means they are more protected than men, which explains why there are 4 times as many male autistic people as there are females. So their brains can work better with mutations than men’s with the same mutations.
To back these results, there’s been another investigation, from the Autism Genome Project, with 2400 patients, which shows similar results. The aim of this foundation is to map the genome of as many autistic people as possible, so as to find a trend they could understand and translate it into a treatment for autism. Although there is still no conclusion, there is progress in this field, demonstrated by this discovery. If we were able to decipher the way in which females are protected, we could be closer to creating a cure for this condition suffered by more than tens of millions of people worldwide.