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Autism genetics: Is Temple Grandin keeping a secret?

Posted Oct 09 2009 10:02pm 1 Comment
I have read with interest Mark Blaxill's recent take on some new genetic findings that have been published on autism. I have also read Alan Griswold's brief take on Blaxill's take. Blaxill has written about the problems with genetic research in autism previously as well. Blaxill points out that there have been failures of science to replicate findings in genetic research in autism.

Assuming that Blaxill's arguments are at all valid, this does not really jive with the thinking of Temple Grandin, probably the most prominent of autistic persons. She has said that getting rid of autism genes would hurt society Grandin states:

I would think in an ideal world, you don't want to have people who cant talk, but on the other hand, you definitely don't want to get rid of all of the autism genetics becvause if you did that, there'd be no scientists. After all, who do you think made the first stone spear back in the caves? It wasn't the really social people.

So, in other words, the fact that I have to suffer from an incurable disorder/disease is necessary to society. Dov Shestack and John Belmonte and other completely nonverbal autistics are making a great noble sacrifice for the betterment of society. There may be some problems with this argument. There so far has not been a unifying finding on autism genetics. Blaxill's piece may point that out. A variety of different chromosomes and genes have been implicated in autism. autosomes as well as x chromosomes. Various types of inheritance, both autosomal dominance in the case of autism caused by tuberous sclerosis as well as multiplex genes, given the fact that the rate of concordance among siblings, while higher than in the general population is lower in identical twins. So we have to wonder if autism genes are responsible for all scientific endeavors as Grandin alleges, then which gene or genes is it? Which chromosome are these genes on? Are they autosomal genes or sex genes? Are the genetic mutations the result of duplications, or deletions of amino acids? I have written about the problems with Grandin's logic elsewhere

Perhaps Grandin has some sort of omniscience about the genetics of autism that the rest of us don't have. Pray tell us, Dr. Grandin, what is the genetic etiology of autism that you are keeping a secret from us. Furthermore, since you know what genes contribute to scientific endeavor, perhaps, science can find a way to enhance these genes in ordinary people who might not have the natural stuff to be great scientists. Even more scientific discoveries could be made, a cure for cancer, a way to rid ourselves of dependence on foreign oil, and a way to end pollution.

I wish Temple would let me in on her little secret.
Comments (1)
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 Jonathan, I don't think that Temple Grandin is keeping a secret about the genes responsible for autism. Nobody knows what those genes are, despite statistical evidence that autism has a genetic component. So far, autism is still considered idiopathic. There is a new book that will be out this month that deals with new research that may lead to a better understanding of the neurological damage that is involved in many cases of autism, as well as the possible genetic and environmental causes that contribute to this damage:

 (The book is very expensive, but maybe you can get your local library to order it on interlibrary loan.)

This book suggests that many forms of autism are caused by oxidative stress and inflammation and that the genes involved in bringing this about are related to those that cause auto-immune diseases. The genes don't bring about the inflammation directly. There are also environmental factors.

     --Aya Katz
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