NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Simons Foundation has awarded Emory University's School of Medicine a $3 million grant to seek genetic explanations for why males have much higher autism rates than females, Emory said yesterday.
Emory professor and principal investigator Michael Zwick told GenomeWeb Daily News today that the award will support a three-pronged program in which the researchers will use Nimblegen’s 2.1-million feature microarrays for copy number variation studies; a new Genome Analyzer from Illumina for Solexa sequencing; a new DNA isolation technique developed at Emory’s department of genetics and featured in an upcoming issue of Nature Methods.
Human males are four to nine times more likely to have autism than females, which has led to theories that the cause for the disorder is buried somewhere in the X chromosome. “However, the ability to comprehensively examine the entire X chromosome for abnormalities has not been technically feasible until now,” the university said in a statement.
Emory's geneticists plan to study 330 autism patients with the goal of identifying X-linked variation for autism susceptibility, if such variation exists.
One team will scan the X chromosome’s 155 million bases with Nimblegen's hi-resolution microarrays in a hunt for "subtle deletions or duplications."
A second group will sequence all 1,098 genes on the X chromosome with the Illumina sequencer.
The third team will scan the X chromosome to find evidence of epigenetic abnormalities that have been caused by gene expression.