Friday, June 11, 2010

Major Autism Genetic Study Highlights Need for Environmental Autism Research

The major new autism genetic study reported over the past few days highlights the need for more research examining possible environmental triggers of autism disorders. Over the past two decades funding for autism research has been provided overwhelmingly in favor of genetic autism research. This major new study which is prompting gleeful headlines around the world actually tells us that there is no common genetic cause of autism, that there are many specific genetic mutations involved with autism. As reported on  CTV News which interviewed Dr. Stephen Scherer, one of the lead researchers on the project , the study itself did not identify all the genetic factors involved with autism disorders and does not begin to identify possible environmental triggers:

"The researchers say that the genetic pattern they found suggested the genetic causes of autism are much more complex than they would have thought. In fact, the findings probably explain only about 3.3 per cent of the genetic origins of autism, and each child with autism appeared to have unique genetic markers associated with his or her disease.

"It is a common disorder but in fact it's a rare genetic variation and each family in a way has their own form of autism," senior study investigator Dr. Stephen Scherer of the Hospital for Sick Children told CTV News. "And we didn't think about it that way before." .... The researchers said the findings support the emerging theory that autism is caused in part by numerous genetic variants. However, these genetic changes are found in less than one per cent of the population, and each variant may only account for a small number of autism cases

...

What the study does not answer is how the genetic changes occur. It's possible that "tiny genetic errors may occur during formation of the parents' eggs and sperm" which then lead to autism from environmental triggers." And experts say the study will allow scientists to ramp up their research into what causes autism and hopefully lead to the development of treatments for the disease.
" (Bold emphasis added HLD)

As far as this humble layperson can understand  from media summaries of the study  the results are important in identifying genetic markers in some autism cases, and helping confirm the biological structures of autism disorders,  but does not determine what triggers autism in those who are genetically susceptible.  As far as I can tell from reading various reports the study does not rule out ANY possible environmental causes or triggers of autism or of the genetic changes reported in the study.  If anything the study appears to indicated the need for research of environmental triggers to begin in earnest after decades of intentional neglect by those with responsibility for funding autism research.


3 comments:

Traveller said...

The Europeans are further ahead of us in formally pointing out chemicals that impact neurodevelopment, See the article at

http://journeythroughthecortex.blogspot.com/2010/06/toxic-america-just-scratches-surface-on.html

Ian MacGregor said...

Your attention is invited to

http://www.earlistudy.org


According to the above site.

"The EARLI Study will examine possible environmental risk factors for autism and study whether there is any interplay between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility."


The study has funding from NIH and Autism Speaks

Ian MacGregor said...

Your attention is invited to

http://www.earlistudy.org


According to the above site.

"The EARLI Study will examine possible environmental risk factors for autism and study whether there is any interplay between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility."


The study has funding from NIH and Autism Speaks