Discovery of gene connected to autism raises new hopes

Researchers say they have found the first piece of the genetic puzzle that could lead to greatly improved diagnosis, treatment and even prevention of autism.

A multi-university team, which included the University of Miami School of Medicine, has identified a gene associated with autism, according to a report published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature.

It may be only one of as many as 50 genes involved, and environmental factors are also involved, but Margaret Pericak-Vance, director of UM's Institute for Human Genomics, says the discovery could lead to practical results within a decade.

''Things are moving so fast, in the next five years or so you can see some of this information being translated maybe into prediction, even therapies,'' she said.

Therapies that would prevent autism are ''farther down the pike,'' she said.