People sometimes ask me, “Why did you become a scientist?” I always hesitate a bit before responding, because the answer that sounds cheesiest is also the one that’s most true. I became a scientist to help people, and I’m privileged to do that every day as chief science officer for Autism Speaks.
Genevieve, as a member of the Autism Speaks community you’re a crucial part of our science team’s work to change the future for people affected by autism.
And your support now will determine whether we can keep making progress toward potentially life-changing findings in 2010, or fail to.
Make sure we can keep finding the answers that will unlock the puzzle of autism — one study at a time — by submitting your tax-deductible donation to Autism Speaks now:
I could pretty much talk your ear off about the exciting work our team has done in 2009, but let me highlight just a few recent scientific discoveries — and how we’re working to translate discoveries into actions that will truly improve the lives of people with autism.
First, did you know that Autism Speaks funds the largest private genetic database and the largest genetic collaboration — the Autism Genome Project — in the world? Our investments in these programs are paying off.
This year, the scientists who are part of the Autism Genome Project discovered a number of novel autism susceptibility genes that are helping us understand the biological basis of autism. In fact, these findings were recently featured by TIME magazine as one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.
Using information from these genetic discoveries, we’re funding a clinical trial to test a new medication that targets the pathways in the brain that these genes are disrupting.
This year also saw the publication of two studies we funded that explored the immune system’s role in autism. By examining the blood cells of children with autism, these studies found that the immune systems of individuals with autism react differently when compromised than those of individuals without autism. Specifically, they release lower amounts of the protein IL-23.
Building on those results, new studies are focusing on how immune challenges like viral infections may play a role in autism. The hope is that this line of research will lead to new approaches for preventing and treating autism spectrum disorders.
Every day we’re making progress in the search for answers.
But that progress is not inevitable. These discoveries, and our scientists, depend on you.
Please do your part today to keep our work going by making a tax-deductible donation to Autism Speaks:
We’ve been on the cutting edge in 2009, and we’ll stay there in 2010 — with your help.
Thank you, and happy holidays!
Dr. Geri Dawson
Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks
Autism linked to genetic glitches
By LISA M. KRIEGER | email@example.com | Bay Area News Group
June 9, 2010 at 11:56 a.m.
New research reveals that genetic glitches are linked to autism, a finding that might eventually lead to strategies to treat one of the most mysterious maladies in medical science.
An international team of researchers, coordinated by a Stanford scientist, announced Wednesday that it has identified dozens of genetic errors linked to 5 percent to 10 percent of autism cases. Those errors — caused by missing or duplicated pieces of DNA — are believed to interfere with the brain’s messaging system.
“Autism can be devastating to families, and we need better treatments,” said Dr. Joachim Hallmayer of the Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital. “The hope is that if we know which genes and genetic pathways are implicated in autism, then we can target them more specifically with treatment.”
Hallmayer organized the 120-member collaborative Autism Genome Project, which studied the genetic data of 1,000 autistics from 11 different nations. The quest for genes that underlie autism, a major disorder of cognition, has been long and frustrating.
Twin and familial studies have shown the condition to be highly genetic — yet no one has identified a single culprit. Scientists have debunked theories that autism is caused by vaccines or bad parenting.
Autism is one of the more urgent health problems of the 21st century. In California, from 1987 to 1998, the number of children receiving services for autism tripled. Between 1998 and 2002, the number doubled again.
Scientists with the Autism Genome Project performed gene scans of individuals with autistic spectrum disorder, a condition marked by social isolation, speech problems and strange, repetitive movements. Those scans were analyzed and compared with those of nonautistic individuals.
They found that individuals with autism carry about 1.7 times more microscopic errors, also known as deletions or “insertions,” in their genome. Some of the errors seem to be inherited from parents. Others are new, found only in affected offspring but not parents.
The genes affected by the errors are known to be linked to intellectual disability.
Funded by the Autism Speaks advocacy group and reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, the findings support an emerging consensus among scientists that the condition — like human cognition itself — is extremely complicated.
While some cases of autism are caused by multiple and varied genetic disruptions, others could be caused by simple one-letter DNA “typos.” Still others may be influenced by a tangle of environmental circumstances.
“It is much more complex than we thought,” said Hallmayer.
But even if the causes are vast and varied, they may all disrupt just a few critical biochemical or physiological pathways, he said. Those pathways — affecting speech, behavior and cognition — could be targets of therapy.
A complete understanding of autism will require an even larger analysis of affected individuals, Hallmayer added.
“Piece by piece, we are discovering genetic mutations that can cause autism,” said Andy Shih, Autism Speaks vice president for scientific affairs. “These genetic findings help us understand the underlying biology of autism.”
Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 408-920-5565.
(Note: This reporter by chance related to Kennedy Krieger Institute?)
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.