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Advantage, But Risk

Alleles in genes linked to autism may have been conserved throughout human evolution because they are also associated with increased cognitive ability, the Independent reports.

Yale University researchers searched for signals of selection around genes associated with neuropsychiatric disorders like autism, but also with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. As they reported recently in PLOS Genetics, the researchers found that common autism risk alleles were enriched for signatures of incomplete selection. The genes these alleles map to also tend to be expressed in the brain, involved in nervous system development, as well as linked to increased cognitive ability.

"We found a strong positive signal that, along with autism spectrum disorder, these variants are also associated with intellectual achievement," study author Renato Polimanti from Yale tells the Independent.

His coauthor Joel Gelernter, also at Yale, says that these autism-linked alleles haven't gone by the wayside because they offered an advantage. "The idea is that during evolution these variants that have positive effects on cognitive function were selected, but at a cost — in this case an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders," he adds.

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.