Its always interesting to read about new quality science and two new genetic oriented studies in Nature give us just that – quality science.
The first of two Nature studies released today found that 65 percent of autistic participants shared a variation between cadherin 10 and cadherin 9, a region of the genome that controls cell-adhesion molecules in the brain. Those molecules help brain cells connect, and autism researchers have long suspected that trouble there may be linked to the disorder.
The second study suggested a link between autism and an excess of genetic material associated with ubiquitin, a protein involved with cell-adhesion molecules and connections between brain cells.
Truly fascinating stuff it looks like and yet I think the time is fast approaching when the need for an ethics debate about this becomes paramount.
I am on record as saying that I do not think science could be (as oppose to should be) curtailed when following research interests. In other words, we couldn’t stop an autism researcher from finding a cause or cure even if we wished to. Politics and research science are a bad mix.
However, that should not ever stop us from debating how to use (if at all) such a thing and the following statement from one of the research members is – to me – a bugle call to start thinking of ways we (the autistic community and the scientific community) can do this and remain on good terms:
If we could remove this variant from the population, just take it away … as much as 25 percent of autism would disappear, which is highly significant,” Hakonarson said.
It is indeed, highly significant. It opens up not only a world of scientific possibility bit it must also open up a genuine debate about the ethical issues surrounding this. But before we do this we need to clarify statements like this. 25% of the entire ASD population? 25% of an individual? 25% of the more disabling aspects of autism? 25% of what exactly?
So we need to clarify things like this. Lets hope we can do this very soon and start a respectful debate between two camps who have worked well together up till now – science and neurodiversity.