Tuesday, February 20, 2007


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember the couple that contacted me because one of their many sons had autism. They wanted a large family but they had read research suggesting that autism has a strong genetic link. They did not want to have another child with autism so they were looking towards embryo donation to try to have a child without the disorder.

I get health updates from Reuter's Health. The US National Institutes of Health has now done a huge study on whether or not autism is genetic. They have now found that it definitely is passed on genetically in almost all cases. That embryo recipient couple (to whom I did not donate) was right to seek another way to have a baby.

Maybe this will stop all that dangerous foolishness about immunizations causing autism. People who do not immunize their kids should not be allowed to have any because their judgement is too impaired to take proper care of those children. If you have ever seen a young person with polio -- decades after it was abolished through vaccination -- or heard of a baby dying from an easily preventable disease she should have been vaccinated against, it is clear that vaccines are a blessing we should embrace. Only the most ignorant among us really believe that vaccines are harmful.

Having the genes to pass along autism or any other genetic disorder is not a mark against a person. It is out of their control. Carrying a genetic disease is not anyone's fault. But choosing to pass along that same disease should be a criminal offense.

If there is a serious genetic disease that runs in your family such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, which causes blindness, you should get genetic testing to see if you carry the gene yourself. If so, you should not have your own genetic child unless you can afford to do IVF with genetic testing to eliminate sick embryos. Even if your partner does not have the disease, you still have a one in four chance of your child being born a carrier of that disease. If I had a one in four chance of winning the lottery I'd be playing it every day.

Anyone who can only be satisfied by having their own genetic child, even to the point of dooming them or their children to sickness, has too much ego tied up in parenting to do a good job.

I did not chose to donate the embryos to the family with the affected child, but I did consider it. They truly loved their kids -- enough to prioritize their health over a genetic link. That's a real parent.

"International study finds new autism genetic links

By Will Dunham Sun Feb 18, 5:32 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientists revealed the most extensive findings to date on the genetics of autism on Sunday, pinpointing two new genetic links that may predispose children to develop the complex brain disorder.

The five-year study, led by an international consortium of researchers from 19 nations, indicated autism had numerous genetic origins rather than a single or a few primary causes.

The researchers scoured DNA samples from 1,168 families with two or more children with autism, and used "gene chip" technology to detect genetic similarities. They also looked for tiny insertions and deletions of genetic material that could play a role in autism.

The scientists hope that nailing down the genetics of autism will lead to better ways to diagnose it and focus efforts on developing drugs to treat it. They announced they are launching a new phase in the research to map genes responsible for autism.

The study incriminated a gene called neurexin 1 involved with glutamate, a brain chemical previously implicated in autism that plays a role in early brain development, as a possible susceptibility gene for autism. A previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 also was implicated.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders apparently stemming from genetic and environmental causes. Geneticist Stephen Scherer of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto said 90 percent of autism may have a genetic basis."

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