Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Search posts:

Alert the Media: More Genes that Don't Mean a Thing

Posted Mar 25 2010 12:00am

Ladder to nowhere By Anne Dachel

We recently got to hear about a new discovery from researchers looking for the genetic cause for autism.  Most parents and probably a good part of the general population barely noticed.  Reports on the genes responsible for autism are often in the news and are so out of touch with reality that they seem worthless. 
As far as the average adult out there is concerned, the word “genetic” implies something kids are born with, something that runs in the family, something no one is really responsible for.  However, if you’re like my husband and me, you can’t think of any relative from the last couple generations who had anything like autism.  And it’s really hard to blame genes for something now afflicting one percent of children that no one ever heard about 25 years ago.
I think autism gene research is funded to make it look like someone is doing something.  Doctors can tell parents that there is cutting edge science coming out.  Be patient.  The medical/scientific communities are working so hard to find answers.  The most advanced medicine in the history of man is focused on autism.
The latest news is pretty typical.  The American Academy of Pediatrics journal, Pediatrics, published it so all their pediatricians will know just what to say to parents. 
There’s now a new test called chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) which is designed to determine the genetic reason for autism.
It also helps fuel the myth that nothing’s really wrong and goes along with the absurd claim that all the autism everywhere is the result of better diagnosing and a shifting of labels. 

As usual, ABC NEWS gave it high praise high praise in A Better Test for Finding Autism Genes?  Study co-author Dr. David Miller from Boston Children’s said CMA is superior to other genetic testing for autism.  Miller said it could be used for “every patient all over the country.” 
Co-author Bai-Lin Wu of Harvard Medical School explained that even though the study can detect a genetic cause in only 7 percent of autistic children, it’s still critically important.  Wu stated that because ‘there are a lot of kids being diagnosed with autism, [it’s] 7 percent of a very large number.’  Wu has done the math and since there are 4 million births a year with one percent of kids now diagnosed with autism, we’re talking about 40,000 new kids per year expected to have autism. 
I guess the only thing doctors need to care about is finding the exact gene behind each case. 
Researchers are hopeful that CMA testing could help detect even more genetic changes linked to autism.  Dr. Leonard Rappaport from Boston Children’s assured everyone that all the parents who blame things like vaccines for their children’s autism, will find the answer in DNA testing.
Despite the fact that this research means nothing as far as most of the autistic children out there are concerned, it did receive coverage.  There was however something new in the mix.  A lot of the stories weren’t as enthusiastic as ABC NEWS: 
LA TIMES March 14, 2010: A new genetic test for autism is a big improvement but still has a long way to go

“For the overwhelming majority of patients who take it, the test won’t turn up anything suspicious. That’s not necessarily surprising, considering that only about 15% of autism cases have a known genetic cause. But it certainly underscores the limitation of all of these types of tests, said Andy Shih, vice president for scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, which funds research on the disease.

"‘The utility of this test in actual clinical settings is not clear,’ Shih said. ‘Until we know more about the association between some of these variants and actual autism risk, it’s difficult to see how this could benefit the family now.’ ”

TIME MAGAZINE March 16, 2010: Toward a more effective genetic test for autism

Tiffany O'Callaghan reported, “It still won't provide any answers for the vast majority of people given the test.”

US NEWS March 15, 2010: Newer Genetic Test for Autism More Effective

Dr. Robert Marion from Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City stated that ‘in the vast majority of cases, we believe there is at least a genetic predisposition to autism, but the ability to identify a specific genetic cause has been very elusive.’

“If tests pinpoint an autism-related chromosomal abnormality in the child, the parents are then offered testing. If a parent is also found to have the abnormality, geneticists conclude that the couple is at higher risk of having a child with autism. (The precise risk depends on what the variant is.)

”But if the parents don't have the abnormality, geneticists conclude that the deletion or duplication happened by chance.”

“…that leaves 85 percent or more families with little explanation for the disorder, Marion said.

‘CMA is better, but it's not great,’ Marion said. ‘The vast majority of children who have autism have no identifiable genetic markers that will help in genetic counseling for future pregnancies. That is very frustrating.’ "

So why should anyone care about CMA?

It’s beginning to sound like media sources aren’t as excited as researchers are about the latest autism gene news.  It’s about time someone asks all the well-credentialed experts out there when they’re going to have some reasonable explanation for why so many kids are disabled.  Even the most unscientific among us knows genes can’t be behind the explosion in autism.  The big question is: Why do scientists keep pretending that "gene discoveries" can offer real answers?
Medscape Today (from WebMD) covered CMA in  New Gene Test Better at Detecting Autism Than Standard Genetic Testing March 16, 2010.  The last line caught my attention:
“The Autism Consortium supported some of the testing done in the study.”
I had never heard of the Autism Consortium so I went to their website.  There I read, “The Autism Consortium is an innovative collaboration of scientific and clinical leaders working with families to change the research paradigm and accelerate the search for answers.”
I was curious about who was involved in this organization.  Under Board of Directors, I found,  Peter Barrett, PhD Chairman, Board of Directors. He also serves on the boards of
Akela Pharma, Archemix Corp, Aureon Laboratories, Helicos BioSciences Corporation, InfaCare Pharmaceuticals, Ivrea Pharmaceuticals, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Stromedix, Vitae Pharmaceuticals. Alan Crane, Vice Chair Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cerulean Pharma Inc, Former CEO, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Former Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Millennium Pharmaceuticals. Edward Scolnick, MD Director,
Former President of Merck Research Laboratories
It’s predictable that the latest genetic findings would be funded, at least in part, by an organization with all kinds of pharmaceutical industry ties.  Under the guise of finding answers to autism, more and more time is wasted on research specifically designed to DO NOTHING TO STOP THIS NIGHTMARE.   Dr. Rappaport pointed out the true purpose on ABC NEWS when he said, ‘As we find diagnoses that cause ASD, people will worry less about things, such as immunizations.’  And they’re willing to look at anything to get away from the claim that an unchecked, unsafe vaccine program is responsible for wrecking havoc on our children.
It’s surprising that big name media sources like the LA TIMES, TIME MAGAZINE, and US NEWS aren’t joining ABC NEWS in singing the praises of this latest piece of garbage science.  Maybe they’re just a little embarrassed that they never have anything of substance to report on autism.
I’d like to mention another story that appeared in the online news on March 21, 2010.   The title was Study projects housing needs of autistic adults .  It announced that 500,000 autistic children are headed for adulthood in this country.  A half a million disabled Americans will shortly reach adulthood with nowhere to go.
This was a report on a collaborative effort in Arizona to accommodate the upcoming generation of affected adults. 
“It is projected that as many as 500,000 autistic children will reach adulthood in the next 15 years. These adults will have varying levels of independence, and will outlive their parents. Where will they go? This is the question that a collaborative report by the Urban Land Institute Arizona (ULI), the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), and Arizona State University (ASU) tries to answer.”
None of the scientists working on CMA research appeared to be at all worried about the epidemic number of children everywhere with autism.  Their main purpose, funded by the vaccine makers, seems to be to continue the tired-out claim that autism is some mystery caused by as yet undiscovered genetic mutations.  But as the Arizona story pointed out, time is running out for this junk science.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.

Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches