Scientists believed to have discovered cause of autism

Scientists may have discovered the cause of autism. A new study shows evidence that the mental disorder could form as a result of damage to enzymes called topoisomerases.

According to, researchers from the University of North Carolina made this claim after completing a test on chemotherapy drug topotecan. It was discovered that this drug can damage topoisomerases and that this often resulted in the sort of impaired neurological development found in those with autism.

More studies will need to be completed to confirm this hypothesis, but the developments could certainly be of interest to many of those in counselling careers who deal with autistic patients.

In an interview with, the study's lead author Mark Zylka said the findings could help with the detection and prevention of autism in the future.

He said: "Our study shows the magnitude of what can happen if topoisomerases are impaired. Inhibiting these enyzmes has the potential to profoundly affect neurodevelopment - perhaps even more so than having a mutation in any one of the genes that have been linked to autism.

"A temporary exposure to a topoisomerase inhibitor in utero has the potential to have a long-lasting effect on the brain, by affecting critical periods of brain development. It could ultimately explain the biological mechanisms behind a large number of autism cases."