“LOS ANGELES — A UCLA-led research team has identified dozens of genes, including 16 new genes, that increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder, according to a UCLA study published Thursday.

The findings, published in the journal Cell, were based on a study of families with at least two children with autism, UCLA said in a statement.

Researchers from UCLA, Stanford University and three other institutions used a technique called whole genome sequencing to map the DNA of 2,300 people from nearly 500 families, it said. They found 69 genes that increase the risk for autism spectrum disorder. Sixteen of those genes were not previously suspected to be associated with a risk for autism.

Researchers also identified several hundred genes they suspect may increase the risk of autism based on their proximity to genes that were previously identified to carry an increased risk. The study further revealed several new biological pathways that had not previously been identified in studies of autism.

The findings highlight the importance of learning how genetic variants or mutations — the differences that make each person’s genome unique — are passed from parents to children affected with autism, said the study’s co-lead author, Elizabeth Ruzzo, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar. Former UCLA postdoctoral scholar Laura Perez-Cano is the study’s other co-lead author.”

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