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Study shows higher risk of autism among siblings of autistic children


Revolutionary research by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has revealed that the risk of recurrence of autism among younger siblings of children with autism is two to six times greater than previously reported. The study was published today in the prestigious Pediatrics journal.

In this innovative study - the most comprehensive conducted to date - the recurrence risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) among infant siblings of children with ASD (that is, the likelihood that a family will have a second child with ASD, if they already have at least one) was examined using the largest sample collected so far and state-of-the-art diagnostic methods.

The sample comprised 664 infants, all of whom had at least one older biological sibling with a verified diagnosis of ASD (6% had more than one sibling diagnosed with autism). Infant siblings were enrolled at a very young age, before signs of autism are readily apparent and before parents typically have concerns about development (the infants' mean age was 8 months and two-thirds of the infants enrolled before 6 months of age). Infant siblings were followed longitudinally through 36 months, when symptoms of ASD are present and reliably identified. The researchers used gold standard diagnostic methods and comprehensive developmental assessments were conducted by experts.

The main result of the study was that recurrence risk among siblings is 18.7%, which is substantially higher than the results of previous studies, which found a 3% -10% risk of recurrence. Furthermore, the researchers report even higher recurrence rates for infants who fell into certain subcategories of elevated risk: for male infants, a recurrence rate of 26.2% was found (versus 9.1% for female infants). Remarkably, this means that almost one in three male siblings will eventually develop ASD. In addition, recurrence risk for infants with more than one older affected sibling was 32.2% - almost twice the rate of those having one older sibling with ASD.

Twelve research groups from the United States and Canada took part in the study. All of the researchers were part of the Autism Speaks funded BSRC (Baby Siblings Research Consortium), an international network of funded studies examining infants in families of children with autism. Prof. Nurit Yirmiya from the department of psychology at the Hebrew University is part of this network and one of the pioneering researchers in this field. The main results of the study indicated that recurrence risk for ASD among younger siblings of children with autism is two to six times greater than the rates found in previous studies.

"The higher recurrence rates found in this study in comparison with previous reports resulted from the fact that previous studies were conducted in the 1980’s and 1990’s when different and more narrow diagnostic criteria were used to evaluate children with autism, and there is an overall increase in the number of children who are diagnosed with ASD," says Prof. Nurit Yirmiya.

"In addition, previous studies used different assessment methods. For example, in some studies children were not assessed directly and other studies did not control for 'stoppage' (the tendency of parents to limit reproduction after the birth of a child with a disability)."

Prof. Yirmiya noted several strengths of the current study, as compared to previous studies: "Only families that had a younger sibling participated; gold standard diagnostic methods as well as comprehensive developmental assessments were used, and administered by experts; this is by far the largest sample to date, pooled across sites so it is a geographically diverse sample. The improved methodology assures that the results of the current study reflect the true population recurrence rates better than previous reports".

It should be emphasized that this study is not an epidemiological one but rather a community-based sample of families who voluntarily chose to participate. The fact that families volunteered to participate may explain the higher rates found in the current study.

The results of this study suggest the development of young siblings of a child with ASD should be monitored in a rigorous, careful, structured and routine fashion. The study also indicates that sibling status constitutes a significant risk factor for ASD.

The researchers say that professionals in the field should work actively and cooperatively with parents to monitor specific developmental milestones and make appropriate intervention plans as needed. Moreover, they say there is a real need to develop preventive programs applicable for infant and toddler siblings of children with ASD who do not yet show the full set of symptoms of autism.

BFHU supports academics at the first UK-Israel Conference on Regenerative Medicine

The conference was the inaugural event of the BIRAX - Regenerative Medicine Initiative


Potential anti-cancer treatment method wins Kaye Award for Hebrew University chemistry student

A strategy for inhibiting a protein that is associated with the spread of cancer has won for a Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ph.D. student in chemistry


Four of five 2012 Rothschild Prizes won by Hebrew University researchers

Four out of five Rothschild Prizes for academic excellence for 2012 are to be awarded to Hebrew University researchers


Hebrew University scholar to receive honor by government of Korea

Dr. Cohen is the first Israeli scholar ever to receive this honor


Winning team of Hebrew U. students to represent Israel in international humanitarian law competition

The Hebrew University team defeated 10 other groups representing educational institutions from across Israel in the four-day competition


Hebrew University brain sciences researcher receives Swartz Prize in US from Society for Neuroscienc

The $25,000 prize recognizes an individual who has produced a significant cumulative contribution to theoretical models or computational methods in neuroscience.


China-Israel physics conference at Hebrew University first of its kind

Prominent researchers from China and Israel will participate in a conference on condensed matter physics


Hebrew University research provides promise for better dealing with osteoarthritis

A step towards better understanding of the biological mechanism involved in the onset of osteoarthritis (OA), which affects millions of people around the world


Swartz Prize to Prof. Haim Sompolinsky of ELSC for Brian Sciences at the Hebrew University

The prize, which is supported by the Swartz Foundation, recognizes an individual who has produced a significant cumulative contribution to theoretical models or computational methods in neuroscience.


Academic year opens at Hebrew University with 23,000 enrollment

Among the areas of study that were most in demand, with the highest numbers of those submitting registration for the first year of studies, were medicine, with 1,373; law, with 1,090; economics, with 1,012.


Four Hebrew University professors named winners of EMET Prize

Four professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will receive on Nov. 20 the EMET Prize for 2011 from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


China-Israel physics conference at Hebrew University first of its kind

Prominent researchers from China and Israel will participate in a conference on condensed matter physics, to be held from Nov. 16-19 at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Motherhood behavior Is influenced by alterations in brain function

Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has shown that motherhood is associated with the acquisition of a host of new behaviors that are driven, at least in part, by alterations in brain function.


Factor in keeping “good order” of genes and preventing disease discovered

A factor that is crucial for the proper positioning of genes in the cell nucleus has been discovered by a team of researchers from the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Hebrew University ranks 57th in world

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been ranked the 57th best university in the world, in a list of the top 500 universities worldwide


Study shows higher risk of autism among siblings of autistic children

Revolutionary research reveals that recurrence risk of autism among younger siblings of children with autism is 2 to 6 times greater than previously reported


Hebrew U. Faculty of Law among world's top 100, best in Israel in annual ranking

The Hebrew University Faculty of Law’s ranking among the world’s top 100 and as the best in Israel reflects the quality of research carried out by its researchers, said Faculty Dean Prof. Barak Medina.


British ambassador visits Edmond J. Safra Campus, furthering academic collaboration

Amb. Gould is actively involved in promoting collaborative scientific exchanges and program between Israel and Britain and serves as chairman of the newly established UK-Israel Life Sciences Council


How early human embryo acquires its shape

Hebrew University scientists show for first time how early human embryo acquires its shape through organizer cells


Yissum Presents a Virtual Cane for the Visually Impaired

The new device can assist blind people in estimating the distance and height of various obstacles.


British philanthropist Trevor Pears to receive honorary doctorate from Hebrew University

The honorary doctorate is being awarded to him "in recognition of his outstanding commitment to social justice and in tribute to his profound friendship for Israel and the Hebrew University."


How the bitter can produce the sweet

pre-meal dietary supplement developed at Hebrew University can overcome fat and sugar problems


Prof. Ruth Gavison Of Hebrew U is the Winner Of Israel Prize In Law - 2011

Prof. Gavison is widely recognized as an authority on constitutional law and human rights


why DNA breaks down in cancer cells

Hebrew University researchers were able to show that it is possible to reactivate normal DNA


Joint Ph.D. program in environmental life sciences with a University in Singapore

This is the first time that the Hebrew University is offering a joint Ph.D. program with a foreign university


Israel’s president launches $10-million agreement for brain research

An agreement for collaborative research in neuroscience between the ELSC at the Hebrew U and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland was signed last week


Two Hebrew U. IMRIC scientists to be awarded Sir Zelman Cowen Universities Fund Prize for Discovery

Dr. Eli Pikarsky and Prof. Sigal Ben-Yehuda are being recognized for their contributions to the understanding of human disease


HU opens a graduate program for working in non-governmental development efforts in third world

The program, known as Glocal Community-Development Studies, began its first session of courses with 16 students


Two Hebrew U professors win prestigious International Medical Science Award

The awards are presented annually to researchers from around the world for outstanding contributions to medical science


Einstein’s papers go digital

$500,000 grant from Polonsky Foundation to enable digitization of 80,000 documents at Einstein Archives of Hebrew university


Hebrew U Prof First Israeli to Be Appointed to European Scientific Council

Prof. Danny Dolev of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is one of seven new members appointed by the European Commission to the Scientific Council, the governing body of the European Research Council (ERC)


Brain doesn’t need vision at all in order to ‘read’ material

The portion of the brain responsible for visual reading doesn't require vision at all, according to a new study by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and France.


The British author Ian McEwan recieved the Jerusalem Prize

Literary Jury panel headed by Hebrew University President Menahem ben Sasson


Event marking 50 years since Eichmann trial evokes strong emotions

Hebrew University's event marking 50 years since the historic Eichmann Trial, in which some of the major figures involved in the trial participated, drew a large audience and received broad coverage in local and international media outlets.

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