A team of researchers at Trinity College Dublin has identified several genes which may be linked to autism.
Dr Louise Gallagher, consultant and lecturer in child psychiatry at TCD, believes one of the genes may affect the ability of nerve cells in the brain to make connections.
Another is thought to influence an enzyme in the blood which could contribute to the severity of autism.
As part of a major international project, the team at the Smurfit Department of Genetics has been studying 200 Irish children with autism and their families.
New technology has allowed the researchers to examine the genetic make-up of the Irish families, scanning genes quickly and in much finer detail for over 10,000 variants.
Around 2,000 children and young adults have autism in Ireland, a condition whereby a person is unable to relate to people and situations.
Further findings from the TCD research are due to be published soon.