New clues to autism's cause

10 Jul

Time report on a new study that found yet more genetic clues to what causes autism.

A paper published in the current issue of Science by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and members of the Boston-based Autism Consortium identifies five new autism-related gene defects. Already, more than a dozen genetic defects have been found to be associated with autism spectrum disorders, which affect about 1 in 150 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the good news, say the Boston researchers, is that many of the genes are beginning to fit into a pattern. “While it might seem discouraging that it’s a growing list of genes, we can be encouraged that a common pathway is emerging,” says Dr. Christopher Walsh, chief of genetics at Children’s Hospital Boston and an author of the paper.

I haven’t read the paper yet but it sounds pretty interesting. They eschewed US and European people and elected to study Turkish and Middle East autistic people because these families have a high incidence of cousins marrying cousins. The end product of this paper is that the authors believe autism may:

…fundamentally amount to molecular defects in learning.

I have issues with the word defect. Some research indicates clearly that autistic people learn differently and not in a way that should be classed as a defect. However, I understand that scientists use terminology pertinent to their training. Hopefully, lessons can be learnt in this arena.

One fascinating thing – and one long suspected by many of us:

There may be hundreds of varieties of autism. From what researchers have seen so far, says Morrow, “It looks like almost every child with autism is different from the next — a different gene is mutated in almost every child.”

A different gene in every child. That – to me – is one more confirmation of what I once thought of as a spectrum and now imagine as an ever-shifting Aurora of autism. And not just autism but _all_ neurological differences.

5 Responses to “New clues to autism's cause”

  1. culvercitycynic July 10, 2008 at 23:18 #

    “an ever-shifting Aurora of autism”

    Brilliant Kev.

  2. Patrick July 11, 2008 at 00:25 #

    Their new 5 plus the dozen previous would be 17! (Factorial, not Exclamation)

    Multiplied again by the number of variants that contibute, this would create a great number of combinations for available degrees of difference on the spectrum.

  3. Ms. Clark July 11, 2008 at 01:55 #

    I guess we could expect more and more genes to be identified. And I would expect that quite a few of the genes responsible for autism will be found in the children’s parents. Of course, they’re are denovo mutations, too.

    I see the toxic parents losing ground every day.

  4. Another Voice July 11, 2008 at 03:22 #

    I am happy to see that autism is receiving serious study by qualified people and that they are publishing their work. I think that mainstream medicine has left a void in reporting what avenues are being explored, what areas have not panned out and which are showing some promise. Of course that void is being filled with something other than facts.


  1. An Evolving Understanding: New Study About Autism Genes - July 10, 2008

    […] Left Brain/Right Brain nicely refers to the “ever-shifting Aurora of autism” regarding the constantly evolving cosmos (to extend the astronomical metaphor) of findings about autism’s causes; about what autism is, and other neurological differences are. Here’s further commentary from today’s Science Daily: The researchers used a technique that pinpoints from a relatively small group of families genes responsible for disorders that can be amplified by parenthood among relatives, which can increase transmission of recessive diseases. Evidence had hinted at such transmission in autism, and the large amount of genetic information obtainable from such families reduced the need for a much larger sample including many families with multiple affected members. […]

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