October 20, 2006

Autism Gene Identified


A child’s susceptibility to autism is increased with a single gene mutation according to research conducted by, a Vanderbilt-led research team.

This discovery has far-reaching implications because this gene, a variant form of a gene called MET, is not just specifically a brain gene but rather a gene which has its effect on multiple systems in the body such as immune function and gut repair.

Therefore researchers have concluded that autism which is complex set of behaviors and mental disabilities may not solely a problem with brain development but rather may also be linked to subtle developmental problems throughout the body.


Levitt and colleagues suggest, "We hypothesize that the common, functionally disruptive [MET gene variant] can, together with other vulnerability genes and [genetic] and environmental factors, precipitate the onset of autism." According to Levitt and his colleagues the MET gene encodes an important enzyme called the MET receptor which sends out signals important for brain growth, brain maturation, immune function, and gut repair.

Most parents of autistic children report that their kids have digestive problems and differing immune responses. This has never been clearly linked directly or indirectly to their autism.

Posted by Kate at October 20, 2006 5:04 PM

This makes total sense. My two oldest children are autistic and when we put them on a casien and gluten free diet, we saw a marked decreased in their self stimulating behavior, better sleep, better concentration, and much less sensory issues.

Posted by: Ontario Lad at October 20, 2006 8:26 PM

I take it the total lack of comments to this post reflects the fact that the average member of the "echo chamber" known as the commenters forum to SDA can't figure a way to blame liberals and commies (what's the diff, really?) for scientific discoveries into the panoply of disabilities known as autism.

Let's all give credit to Kate for this post. Autism is now entering a phase of true discovery; autistics can now escape the narrow confines of third tier psychologists and politically motivated educrats who when seeing something they don't understand, call it "retarded," or equally repugnant euphamisms.

Many years ago Peter Gzowski had a woman on his show who was both autistic and had authored a book (gasp!) called, I think, "Nobody, No Where." She claimed she could "shadow talk" Gzowski, that is, repeat what he said almost simultaneously. So he read a script and she did it. She repeated what he said within a quarter second of him saying it. She also claimed - and who's to argue? - that she could see every blade of grass on her lawn.

Autism in its own special way is an argument against coventional thinking and especially an argument against ideology. To understand an autistic is to open your mind to the infinite possibilities of perception.

The only question to ask now is why Kate would post this. Surely there is no "political" reason.

Posted by: nordica13 at October 20, 2006 8:55 PM

I'll just add this: the discovery of a gene isn't a case for determinism, however one defines it.

Posted by: nordica13 at October 20, 2006 9:13 PM

alright I'll bite.

the Liberals just act autistic. own world, own rules , ignore the rest of us.

Posted by: cal2 at October 20, 2006 9:40 PM

Nordica - one of the first categories created here was "genetics". As a dog breeder, it's in my interest to track new developments in human genetics, and as I do, I occasionally find items of general interest.

I hope that satisfies your curiosity.

Posted by: Kate at October 20, 2006 10:05 PM

Well nothing like good scientific research. Certainly this information would eliminate some of the other ideas about causes of autism, vaccines, television watching.

If the post must be political, and it need not be, it is that rational, persistent use of the science will unlock the secrets of disease and afflictions. Only through this understanding will we be able to solve the problems.

There was a time when the above statement wouldnt have been considered political. Today it is unfortunately.

Other than that, neat find and glad they are tracking it down. I have 2 young children that are thankfully healthy.

To Ontario Lad, I dont know how you do it....I guess you just work through the love of your children, hats off to you.

Posted by: Stephen at October 20, 2006 10:10 PM


You're a dog breeder? Really. What breed(s)? We have a red Border Collie (recessive genes, duh), a regular Border collie and a mutt who looks like a Jack Russel head grafted onto a basset hound body. We have no idea what she is but her personality emobodies (at least) both.

You read any of Stanley Coren's stuff. He's interesting least of all because he backs most stuff up with research.

Posted by: nordica13 at October 20, 2006 10:34 PM

nordica 13 says, "Autism in its own special way is an argument against coventional thinking and especially an argument against ideology. To understand an autistic is to open your mind to the infinite possibilities of perception."

Flavour of the month, n13? I teach these kids. Autism: "an argument"? Isn't that a nice utopian idea?

Get real, n13. How about actually experiencing the gut wrenching anomalies and (dis)tresses of autistics, their parents, and those of us who deal with them daily?

I'll bet you vote NDP. I think it's high--whoops!--time for you to grow up and join the real world.

Posted by: lookout at October 20, 2006 11:29 PM

Miniature Schnauzers

Posted by: Kate at October 20, 2006 11:50 PM

Is there a gene for liberalism? (Or is it just a symptom of brain damage?)

Posted by: davie at October 21, 2006 12:08 AM

nordica13: best asswipe repacement ever! Go open your stuffed envelope.
But have a nice day as well.
Take care.

Posted by: eastern paul at October 21, 2006 2:08 AM

"environmental factors, precipitate the onset of autism"


So having the gene doesn't guarantee autism,. It's also likely why those with autism respond to diet and social type therapy. I have a friend whose son is autistic, I'm glad for the research and the help and support they receive.

Posted by: Fergy at October 21, 2006 10:15 AM

one of the signs of autism is the inability to lie. that would let a few liberanos off the hook.

Posted by: cal2 at October 21, 2006 11:16 AM

Thanks Stephen! And to Kate for posting this thread. ;-)

Our sons are high functioning enough to be integrated into regular school, however, the challenges are so many; there seems to be a new one coming up every other week.

Speaking of hats, my wife and I have to wear many hats: therapist, advocate, parent, teacher, its endless. The school board NEVER makes anything easy, and we have to fight every inch of the way for absolutley everything that is our sons' due. Our school board was and continutes to be VERY resistant in allowing our sons' therapy workers to accompany them in school. The Ministry of Education doesn't like to share their autonomy, with Social Services, and Children and Youth Services.

And when we finally won the battle to get our oldest son's IBI worker in to his class room when he need her to integrate, we even had the principal of his first school place our son in the grade that had the most behavioural problems and the highest class count. She was trying to use our son's IBI worker as a free additional T.A. We were pissed to no end.

I tell you, I'm a life long Conservative, and always will be. But Shelly Martel, an NDP MPP has done more for our cause than anyone. She is a tireless advocate for autistic kids. Her and I have conversed and only see eye to eye on this one issue. She knows that I will never vote NDP. But out of respect for all she has done for children like mine, I abstain from voting because as I've said, I'm still a Conservative.

As far as Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals, well, you can just imagine what I think of that spineless, cowardly little weasel.

Posted by: Ontario Lad at October 21, 2006 11:30 AM

This is indeed welcome news. I have an eight-year-old friend who is autistic. It is saddening indeed to watch her struggles and those of her parents as they cope with it.

I suspect that things are considerably more complicated than can be conveyed in a short article (I, for example, test out well into the autistic range on the Baron-Cohen test, but nobody thinks that I'm actually autistic, nor do I have any phyisical problems), but, regardless of that, this is quite a break-through. I'll be forwarding this to the family.

Thank you for posting it, Kate.

Posted by: Silicon Valley Jim at October 21, 2006 8:02 PM

Do you think there could be a lying gene among politicians especialy liberal politicians and BILL CLINTON has this gene

Posted by: spurwing plover at October 21, 2006 9:12 PM

I find this very interesting in the light of recent MSM stories that excessive TV viewing by young kids (less than five years old) has a very high correlation with autism. So is autism genetic, or environmental? I'm profoundly grateful that my two girls don't suffer from it, even though they watched tons of TV as kids (and I offer my emotional support to Ontario Lad; I'm sure you love your kids with all your heart, but I'm equally sure you find the day-to-day reality hard).

What scares me about this story is the question "will parents who find this genetic disorder during pregnancy abort their children?". We have already seen, in China and India, parents who abort their children for the "sin" of being female. I confess that during our second pregancy, we were informed that there were "genetic problems". We were offered abortion as an option; we declined. I'm pleased to say our younger daughter has been accepted into the gifted program at school, and has been ranked in the top 1% of all students. Whether or not she contributes anything of substance to humanity is an open question. But she has that potential, and it's one I hope she lives up to. Does one bad gene make a person incomplete, ineffective, or inhuman? I hope not.

Posted by: KevinB at October 22, 2006 8:17 AM

Sounds like Nordica is a member of the socalled "neurodiversity" crowd.

Posted by: capt joe at October 22, 2006 1:36 PM


Actually, its interesting you mentioned that. Another cause of autism may be correlated to the vaccination that is given to young babies. I read somewhere (I WISH I could remember where) that this is PARTLY why the rate of autism has jumped so high in recent years; because of something (again, not sure what exactly) that is in certain vaccinations. That may explain the high spike of incidents in places like China and India, because apparently we were sending them our vaccination to use.

Another reason why there seems to be a general increase in the rate of autism is because the diagnostic tools have improved greatly. Don't forget, autism is a spectrum disorder; some have it more or less profoundly than others. My oldest has sensory, language, and social issues, but his attention span and memory are AMAZING, while he learned to read at a much earlier age than typical. My second to oldest son had social phobias and is extremely regimental. But his vocabulary and math ability for his age is breathtaking, even if his receptive language suffers a bit. Our two year old is delayed in speach, but otherwise seems fine; he's VERY outgoing for his age. With him, time will tell I guess. Still, we feel blessed, because there are so many autistic children that are non-verbal, engage in self injurious behavior, and not even close to being toilet trained.

Posted by: Ontario Lad at October 22, 2006 4:07 PM


Another thing if I may, regarding the abortion of babies with autism. Even if a cure were found for autism, many adults with higher functioning autism prefer NOT to be cured. They see autism as something that is inherently part of them, making them a large part of who they are. They feel that a cure would take away who there ARE, and that is something they don't ever want.

Of course, its different when your child is still a youngster and you have to make a decision as to what is best for him or her. Would I want a cure for my child? Ask any parent and I daresay that they would. But in my mind to abort a baby with autism is not a cure, its a cop-out.

Posted by: Ontario Lad at October 22, 2006 4:17 PM