More Autism News


New Member
I want to retract my "I really dislike MySpace" statement, because I have found an incredible (surprising) wealth of Autism and BiPolar (BP) support there. Here's some more interesting news:

Feb. 18, 2007 — Scientists always knew it was devilishly complex.

Autism, found in one of about every 160 people around the world, has many degrees and types, and piles of evidence hinting that genes — not one but many genes — are to blame.

But how to find them? It's like trying to find a few dozen innocent looking criminals in a crowd of millions.

Now, scientists have probable cause implicating dozens of prime suspects all corralled in one place — the collection of 23 X-shaped chromosomes that hold our DNA and are found in every cell in the body.

The Autism Genome Project (AGP), by far the largest autism study ever, has tamed the immense complexity by using new computer technology that can read billions of DNA signals in a few minutes.

AGP Researchers at 50 study centers in 19 countries brought the new technology to bear on the genomes of 1,168 families that each had at least two autistic children.

"We had a few isolated suspect genes before," principal AGP investigator Steven Scherer of the University of Toronto told ABC News. "But now, for the first time, we can finally see the forest for the trees."

The massive new study pinpoints the probable culprits — not just one but many genes and abnormalities — on every one of the 23 chromosomes.

The findings also strongly suggest that different combinations of genes may cause the different degrees and kinds of autism found in different people — ranging from mild to severe.

"Autism has such a wide spectrum. Every child presents differently," Theresa Wadell of Arlington, Va., told ABC.

She and her husband, Chris, have had three boys. The first two — now aged 7 and 5 — have mild autism.

"We always have to watch them," she says. "Each child is in their own world. Paul, he's all over the room. Will, who is older, is the quieter one."

"The message here," says another principle investigator in the study, Joseph Buxbaum, "is that there is great hope now."

Hope, explains Buxbaum, because so many "probable causes" of autism have at least been located where researchers can find them — in the genes — and where they can now start checking out the particular role each implicated gene and genetic abnormality plays in the disease.

They found one prime suspect on chromosome number 11.
"A smoking gun," says Buxbaum, "that implicates a series of genes that all work together, and may together cause autism."

In the 1950's, a widely believed theory promoted by Chicago psychologist Bruno Betelheim held that autism was caused by cold and distant parenting in infancy.

It was coined the "refrigerator mom" theory, and made many mothers feel guilty until the 1980's, when studies of identical twins found that if one twin suffers from autism, the other almost always does, too — strong evidence of genetic cause.

Both AGP researchers Scherer and Buxbaum say their new study also shows environmental toxins are not, as some argue, a major cause of autism.

"The evidence suggests autism is over 90 percent caused by genes," says Buxbaum.

"As we find more and more genes for autism," he says, "I think it will begin to reduce some of the clamor that there's environmental causes for autism."

Next, the AGP scientists will spend three years focusing on the many genes they've implicated in the autism families in their study, narrowing in on the exact roles of each gene or abnormality and trying to understand how they interact.

"We have the beginnings of the beginning, I would call it," says Buxbaum.

They hope that within 5 to 10 years, it will lead to drugs to prevent, fight and possibly even reverse autism.


Feb 18, 2007 — WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists revealed the most extensive findings to date on the genetics of autism on Sunday, pinpointing two new genetic links that may predispose children to develop the complex brain disorder.

The five-year study, led by an international consortium of researchers from 19 nations, indicated autism had numerous genetic origins rather than a single or a few primary causes.

The researchers scoured DNA samples from 1,168 families with two or more children with autism, and used "gene chip" technology to detect genetic similarities. They also looked for tiny insertions and deletions of genetic material that could play a role in autism.

The scientists hope that nailing down the genetics of autism will lead to better ways to diagnose it and focus efforts on developing drugs to treat it. They announced they are launching a new phase in the research to map genes responsible for autism.

The study incriminated a gene called neurexin 1 involved with glutamate, a brain chemical previously implicated in autism that plays a role in early brain development, as a possible susceptibility gene for autism. A previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 also was implicated.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders apparently stemming from genetic and environmental causes. Geneticist Stephen Scherer of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto said 90 percent of autism may have a genetic basis.

"What we have now that we didn't really have before is a pretty decent understanding of what the genetic architecture is looking like in the autism genome," said Scherer, who worked on the study published in the journal Nature Genetics.


Autistic children have problems with social interaction and verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as repetitive behaviors such as rocking and twirling or narrow and obsessive interests. These behaviors can vary in severity from mild to disabling.

Autism appears in early childhood, often as young as age 2 or 3, and affects four times as many boys as girls.

"It's such a perplexing issue and it's so serious for the children," said University of Pittsburgh researcher Bernie Devlin, who helped lead the study.

Some advocacy groups believe too little attention is given to environmental factors they believe may contribute to autism, like mercury.

A problem in autism research has been that some studies have been based on data from relatively few people. In this study, more than 120 researchers from Europe and North America pooled efforts and expanded the number of people studied.

"Most researchers tend to work in their own world, collect their own set of families to study genetic disorders, and not share," said Rita Cantor, a University of California-Los Angeles geneticist involved in the study.

U.S. federal health experts this month called autism an urgent public health concern that is more common than previously estimated. They said it affects about one in 150 U.S. children.

The research was funded by the nonprofit group Autism Speaks and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"I think the most important thing that the study shows is that the genetic causes of autism are likely to be varied," said Andy Shih, chief science officer for Autism Speaks. "The genetic mechanism involved is probably not uniform."

Copyright 2007 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



Former desparate mom
Thanks so much Janna. I haven't read much of current info out there. The past few years hasn't seen difficult child making the progress I had hoped and I just couldn't read anymore depressing statistics.
Recently, 60Min. and several articles in popular magazines has made me feel a little more motivated.
difficult child has very few obvious signs of AS. He is social, he is verbal,he makes eye contact, and is physically affectionate with hugs and such.He is obviously bright and is relatively self taught. He doesn't flap his hands when excited as he did as a child. He doesn't toe walk when he runs. His speech pattern is appropriate.
Yet, his thinking continues to be somewhat in his own world but confusingly it appears like he is self absorbed. Maybe self absorbed is a lighter version of his own world.
Intellectually, he knows all the right things he should do but continues to have trouble processing the info into action.
He is however incredibly oppositional, especially to me. I drag him out of his own world and what he wants to do the things that are necessary. I believe I am keeping him from retreating into a world that the brain seems to create to insulate these kids. He hates it but he doesn't want me to stop.
It's a bear to deal with him but as long as he asks me to not stop I will fight with him to pull himself out of his comfort zone.
Again thanks. I know husband and I have made gene soup that isn't what either of us expected but that was the luck of the draw. Neither of us knew anyone in our families like our difficult child but we can see symptoms scattered within the group that all came together in difficult child. Hopefully with the research above, there will be something to help the next generation of kids and parents. It's unfortunate that it isn't an injection like Flowers For Algernon but maybe the treatment will last longer.