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Scientists Develop Genetic Test For Autism

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Genetic testing for autism is one step closer to reality, researchers say, a development which may open the door for earlier diagnosis.

In a study published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, Australian researchers report that they’ve developed a genetic test that can predict autism with more than 70 percent accuracy among people of central European descent. Further testing in other ethnic groups is ongoing.

The test is based on data from more than 3,300 Americans with autism and over 4,000 of their relatives. Researchers identified hundreds of genetic markers that are associated with an autism diagnosis or are known to protect people from developing the disorder. They then compared the number of risk markers versus protective markers present in an individual to assess their likelihood of having autism.

“This test could assist in the early detection of the condition in babies and children and help in the early management of those who become diagnosed,” said Stan Skafidas of the University of Melbourne who led the study. “It would be particularly relevant for families who have a history of autism or related conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome.”

Scientists said the promising findings may lead to earlier autism diagnosis and intervention, which could reduce the disorder’s long-term behavioral and cognitive effects.

Currently, autism diagnosis is based on clinical observation alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for the developmental disorder at 18 months, but a National Institute of Mental Health survey released earlier this year found that most kids are not diagnosed until after age 5.

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Comments (16 Responses)

  1. Tacitus says:

    Early detection isn’t going to do anything to help. We’re not autistic because we’re stupid and people just need to teach us to be normal from an earlier age. We’re autistic because that is how our brains are set up to function.

  2. Barb says:

    Wow. A genetic test for Autism. How long will it be before this test will be available for prenatal testing and lead to countless abortions because the general population in general fear Autism. Fewer and fewer people will be born with Autism and it will go the way of Down syndrome. I would not trade either of my children for anything and one has Down syndrome and the other has Autism. Tread very carefully here.

  3. Thomas C. Wood says:

    Eugenics is rearing its ugly head with this test. I am Autistic & I am ok, just the way I was born as God made me.

  4. lkulmann says:

    Genetic testing is so important to early intervention. Just because they find an Autism gene doesn’t mean they want to encourage abortions. I think scientists want to help diagnosis early intervention and finally a cure…I pray that they do all that ASAP.

  5. KA101 says:

    Mixed opinion: skill training (Skillstreaming, etc) can be helpful. Certainly was for this autie. Theoretically, starting it earlier might spare the kid some social strain. But poor implementation may well be worse than none at all.

    As for ABA…well, there certainly seems a correlation between auties who were ABA’d and auties with PTSD. Might be worth keeping that in mind.

  6. autismUXB says:

    The only problem with this is that autism is not genetic, not caused by a refrigerator mother, not from sperm from old men or from auto-immune factors. It is happening because of environmental factors and in the case of my son, from a vaccination. If autism was genetic, why has it just appeared in the last 40 years and not with our prior generations. I don’t know of any family who reports any history of this condition in their ancestors. All any of this will lead to is more abortions and will continue to avoid exposing the real causes.

  7. John Best says:

    This is great news! Now we can sterilize everyone who has the autism gene so they won’t produce more autistic kids.

  8. Jean says:

    As a parent of a child with Spina Bifida, I find it incredibly sad that 85% of babies diagnosed with SB are aborted. We need to adapt to our children, not kill them because they don’t meet our expectations. All children are precious.

  9. Mike Sullivan says:

    Earlier intervention, i.e eugenic abortion. Look out autism community, the eugenicsts are coming for you to, just like they are with our Down syndrome community.

  10. Richard Roberts, PhD, MD, FACMG says:

    As a medical Geneticist with two autistic children, I should comment: there are genes which predispose to autism, but no one will ever terminate a pregnancy after detecting such a gene, as these genes are also associated with genius and exceptional human abilities such as musicianship, scholarship, business acumen, artistic skills, and so on. Albert Einstein was autistic. There are an untold number of factors which we do not understand which influence gene expresion, called epigenetic factors. So, autism is an epigenetic disorder, and it is very common to find other affected individuals in families. My wife’s brother, my mother’s nephew, my father’s nephew.

  11. SPED Teacher says:

    Every life, even those with the most profound limitations, has value,worth, and purpose. I believe there is a genetic connection to autism. Kknowing this will lead to better, quicker, and more reliable intervention which can only lead to a higher quality, more functional life for those afflicted. In 7 years of teaching Special Ed, I have noticed that almost without fail, if you have a significant cognitive disability the odds are you have at least one close family member with a disabliity.(parent, aunt/uncle, brother/sister, grandparent). Of course, I’m viewing a small population (only 8-10 students per year) but almost every one of my students has had at least one family member also with a disablity. Research by neuroscientist Sam Wang, of Princeton University, also confirms this observation. As a Christian, I reject using prenatal testing to decide if one should choose an abortion. Research also confirms that early intervention leads to better outcomes for children who are diagnosed with autism.

  12. 2ontheSpectrum says:

    Early detection is great. But what good will it do if most families can’t afford the intensive therapy/treatment needed and most families are on insurance that is protected by ERISA so they don’t have to cover it either?

  13. GARY B. RUBIN says:

    that sounds great now if we could find a cure or some what that would be alsome becouse even people with autissum are people too and need to be exceped in this life too

  14. Glen S says:

    Wow, the fear mongering is rearing its ugly head again! Early testing and diagnosis it key to training families and treating developmental issues. In such cases, the benefits far out weigh the risks or societal “land mines.”

    How a family uses that information is their burden. For this to be an argument against earlier testing is fallacious and irresponsible.

  15. KA101 says:

    Mr. Rubin.

    Indeed we are people. And a significant amount of us–including myself–don’t appreciate the idea of someone coming along with an injection or somesuch that would radically reshape our thought processes. Certainly I don’t get to reach into an NT’s head and remake their processing as I’d like.

    Though I don’t believe in further lives, I’d also posit that losing one’s autism in a hypothetical afterlife makes about as much sense as the prospect of losing one’s Down syndrome. How would anyone recognize one without that significant aspect of one’s personality?

    Thanks for your time and consideration.

    Now, for Mr. Best:

    The prospect of sterilizing us against our will is unacceptable. Kindly don’t insult us like that again.

  16. ProLife says:

    Early testing is great. Knowing early you can prepare and manage it better.

    What needs to be banned is not early testing but abortion. I’m mostly liberal but what I don’t get is why so many liberals support abortion. It leads to discrimination against the disabled.

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