A new, preliminary study suggests that developing females are much better able than males to fight off genetic pressure to develop symptoms of autism. The findings aren't definitive and don't point to a treatment or cure.
In the new study, published online Feb. 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers aimed to figure out how females fared who were born into families that appeared to have a higher genetic risk of autism symptoms. The study authors looked at more than 3,800 pairs of non-identical twins from Great Britain and more than 6,000 pairs of non-identical twins from Sweden. They then tried to figure out how a family risk of autism symptoms (not diagnosed autism itself) affected the twins.
They found evidence that it takes greater family risk -- meaning a higher genetic load -- for a girl to develop autism symptoms. In other words, girls appeared to be more resilient against the threat of autism symptoms compared to boys.
"There's more pressure on them to get it, and once they get it, it's more obvious than in their relatives," said Zimmerman.