First proof that autism is genetic


Researchers find first common autism gene. I have a (wholly unscientific) suspicion that autism is the result of a whole bunch of genes that are expressed in a certain relatively rare configuration in relation to one another, manifesting in the whole spectrum of ‘autistic’ behaviours including a number that weren’t always classified as such, like Asperger’s. The particular configuration of genes determines where on that spectrum you fall. This news fits my suspicion, at least.

Incidentally, I have a suspicion that homosexuality is the same way — there’s no one single gene you can pinpoint, but it’s the result of a whole lot of genes interacting in a specific combination; no one single gene making you prefer partners of your gender. In combination, knowing all the genes involved could lead to, say, figuring out the odds of your kid being gay before they’re even born. Horrifyingly, if that’s the case, homophobic parents might choose to abort or give up for adoption children that have above a specific percentile chance of being gay. Likewise with parents abandoning autistic kids, but there’s no in-grained social stigma about being on the autistic spectrum.

Anyway, back on topic — I wonder whether Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey will claim that vaccines somehow change your genetics. Or if they’ll miss the point and suggest that genetics accounts for only 15% of autistic cases, not realizing that this only means we’ve figured out what one specific gene looks like, not that we’ve “isolated the autism gene”.

Update: Well I was wrong about there being no social stigma about being autistic. Catching up reading Orac, I saw this article. It’s unbelievable the pain people are willing to cause over ridiculous, unfounded, unscientific, irrational fear of the unknown.

Also, Phil Plait has more good news on the vaccination front: rationality wins one in Australia. Plus a brilliant poster about homeopathic Swine Flu remedies being outright scams.

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