There has been a great deal of “buzz” the last two weeks about the latest findings in a number of Autism research projects.
We have been pointed in the direction of genetics, which many believe accounts for roughly 20% of the cases. Teams of scientists working independently have for the first time identified certain gene mutations that sharply increase the chances that a child will develop autism.
This new research provides a clear strategy for building some understanding of the disability’s biological basis. But it is important to acknowledge that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of gene variations that could disrupt brain development enough to result in social delays. The same study published in the journal Nature, also confirmed elevated risk for children with older fathers. Another study published in Pediatrics suggested maternal obesity may play a role. Also being studied are other factors during pregnancy, including medications as well as environmental pollutants. Do genetic flaws load the gun and other factors pull the trigger?
Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks, has stated: “Over the next three to five years we’ll be able to paint a much clearer picture of how genes and environmental factors combined to cause autism.” Nancy Minshew, MD, while speaking at the opening of the new training and education complex of the Barber National Institute, noted that she believed that we would identify the causes of autism and thereby the cure within her lifetime. That was in 2003. We continue on the journey.