Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous condition affecting >1% of all children, characterized by impaired social interactions, repetitive behavior and a widely variable spectrum of comorbidities. These comorbidities may include developmental delay, gastrointestinal problems, cardiac disorders, immune and autoimmune dysregulation, neurological manifestations (e.g., epilepsy, intellectual disability), and other clinical features. This wide phenotypic heterogeneity is difficult to predict and manifests across a wide range of ages and with a high degree of difference in severity, making disease management and prediction of a successful intervention very difficult. Recently, advances in genomics and other molecular technologies have enabled the study of ASD on a molecular level, illuminating genes and pathways whose perturbations help explain the clinical variability among patients, and whose impairments provide possible opportunities for better treatment options. In fact, there are now >1000 genes that have been linked to ASD through genetic studies of more than 10,000 patients and their families. This chapter discusses these discoveries and in the context of recent developments in genomics and bioinformatics, while also examining the trajectory of gene discovery efforts over the past few decades, as both better ascertainment and global attention have been given to this highly vulnerable patient population.
Keywords: Autism; Bioinformatics; Chromosomal abnormalities; Copy number variations; Exome sequencing; Genome sequencing; Genomics; NGS; Next-generation sequencing.