The neuro-behavioral disorder of autism was first described in the 1940s and was predicted to have a biological basis. Since that time, with the growth of genetic investigations particularly in the area of pediatric development, an increasing number of children with autism and related disorders (autistic spectrum disorders, ASD) have been the subject of genetic studies both in the clinical setting and in the wider research environment. However, a full understanding of the biological basis of ASDs has yet to be achieved. Early observations of children with chromosomal abnormalities detected by G-banded chromosome analysis (karyotyping) and in situ hybridization revealed, in some cases, ASD associated with other features arising from such an abnormality. The introduction of higher resolution techniques for whole genome screening, such as array comparative genome hybridization (aCGH), allowed smaller imbalances to be detected, some of which are now considered to represent autism susceptibility loci. In this review, we describe some of the work underpinning the conclusion that ASDs have a genetic basis; a brief history of the developments in genetic analysis tools over the last fifty years; and the most common chromosomal abnormalities found in association with ASDs. Introduction of next generation sequencing (NGS) into the clinical diagnostic setting is likely to provide further insights into this complex field but it will not be covered in this review. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.