Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Identifying Endophenotypes Can Help Guide Treatment of Autism

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Identifying Endophenotypes Can Help Guide Treatment of Autism

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE -- Identifying shared endophenotypes might help clinicians characterize neurobehavioral syndromes and plan treatment, said a specialist in neurobehavioral development.

An endophenotype is a subset of features of a syndrome that are more highly correlated with a genetic mechanism than the whole syndrome, and grouping syndromes that share common features can help target and simplify treatment strategies, said Travis Thompson, Ph.D., also a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Some genetic evidence suggests that there might be shared inherited traits between autism and Prader-Willi syndrome (PW), and Dr. Thompson presented important behavioral similarities and differences between these two conditions at a meeting on developmental disabilities sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.

"Identifying clinically relevant endophenotypes can be more helpful than trying to figure out exactly which genes cause autism," he said.

Phenotypic features that differ might be just as informative as those that are the same in understanding genetic and associated brain differences in clinical syndromes, Dr. Thompson said. "The fact that they are alike in some ways but different in a specific way tells you that there is probably a different genetic mechanism," he said.

Candidates for a common genetic lesion include the [lambda]-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor 3 (GABRB3), which might be absent or reduced in children with either autism or PW. …

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