Saturday, April 25, 2009

Autism Is A Complex Disorder, A Single Causal Mechanism Is Unlikely

There are some who believe, as an article of faith, that autism is 100% genetic.

They cling to this belief even though the fact that one identical twin has an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis does not necessarily mean that the other twin will also have an ASD. For many with the "it's gotta be genetic" mindset no explanation, no study, no evidence will budge them.

For everyone else in the world though Dr. Harvey Singer of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore who, with his colleagues, has studied the effects of mice that developed autistic like behaviors after being exposed before birth to antibodies from mothers of autistic children, has some wise words to share with us. Dr. Singer is quoted in a Reuters article Mother's antibodies may contribute to autism :

"Autism is a complex disorder and it would be naïve to assume there's a single mechanism that can cause it. It's most likely the cumulative effect of several factors, including genes, metabolism, and the environment. We believe we have identified one of those factors."

I am pleased any time I see such a sensible perspective offered about autism by someone with the knowledge and credibility to have his comments be given serious weight and consideration. Here in Canada our autism research community, and our CIHR, are dominated by a small Montreal based neuroscience elite that still leans heavily towards the outdated "it's gotta be genetic" view of autism that Teresa Binstock cautioned against a decade ago. There is an Autism Research Paradigm Shift taking place ... in the United States ... if not in Canada.

Once again, I must thank our American friends for offering informed, sensible information about the nature of autism disorders, their possible causes and interventions.

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Anonymous said...

Who are these people that think autism is 100% genetic? Its not the neurodiversity crowd if that is what you are implying.

farmwifetwo said...

It's actually not a new concept.

I also have a link about the dangers of ultrasounds... and we had... WAY too many of those as well.

I have another article from London, Ont that (is this the one b/c I only have one window open) or this one that backs up the "diet" idea as well.

I have a list in my Fav's of links but sometimes it's hard to tell which one is which and my internet is at a crawl this morning so I only have one window open.


Mayfly said...

I thought the ND community did not want autism to be cured no matter the cause. Now, for many this stems from a belief it is not nor now nor ever will be curable. A belief buoyed by the amount of highly-questionable treatments available.

I don't know if they will ever find a cure or even treatments which will help my daughter live a full life. But we need to keep trying, to keep exploring. It is reasonable to debate the chance of different avenues of research bearing fruit, but many though not all ND types want to close off research of any kind with cure as a goal. I think that's what the Lindt boycott was about.

Roger Kulp said...

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.,8599,1821595,00.html?imw=Y

You need to add blockqoute to the accepted HTML.


for a neurodiversity take on this.

Mitochondrial disease is also inherited from the mother.

Both the neurodiversity crowd,and a large per centage of the antivaccine people tend to make the mistake of seeing autism as this monolithic entity with one single cause. As with mental retardation, there are genetic and nongenetic causes.The person with Down Syndrome can be just as intellectually disabled as the person with fetal alcohol syndrome, but they do not have the same condition.

The fact that diet changes may not have the same results in all autistics,or that some supplements may have dramatic improvements in one person's autism,and make another person's autism worse, would also lead you to believe not all autism has the same cause.

While the neurodiversity movement does not want autism to be cured,so they use the genetic causes as an excuse,to say it's incurable.You don't see them comparing autism to cystic fibrosis , or cerebral palsy,which they ought to,if they truly honest about the genetic link.

Stephanie Lynn Keil said...

I made a YouTube video, my first. It's a slide show with images, text and music about a bit of my autism.

MJ said...

Another thing about identical twins is even if both twins have autism is can be of a different severity or take different forms. The symptoms can differ between the twins - one might have an aversion to a certain tactile sensation while the other one doesn't. Or one can be self-injurious but the other one isn't.

If autism were completely genetically determined or predetermined then the twins would be the same and the disability would take the same form. It doesn't so there is something other than genetics involved.

cmasp said...

There are indeed many factors affecting autism. The best article regarding all the complex factors that influence whether someone gets AS or not that I've seen is here -

As for why one twin can get autism while another doesn't, if genetics is a factor, I found the PBS show "The Ghost in your Genes" quite fascinating in general, but in particular in it's research into AS.

Main show -
Detailed transcript -