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Biotech Science

Autism Reversed in Mice at MIT Lab 303

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the only-one-man-would-dare-give-me-the-fragile-x dept.
ClayTapes writes "It seems that scientists at MIT have been able to reverse the effects of autism and some forms of mental retardation in mice caused by fragile X chromosomes. They do so by targeting an enzyme that changes the structure of connections between brain cells. The treatment actually repairs these structural abnormalities which suggests that it may be possible to reverse the effects in children who already show symptoms."
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Autism Reversed in Mice at MIT Lab

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  • Amazingly (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:20PM (#19667817)
    The mice are still not talking... except for one.
  • This is definitely a good thing. Definitely. Definitely.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Wow!

      Although.... I've read that a disappointing percentage of drugs that work really well in mice don't in men.

      • Re:Definitely (Score:5, Interesting)

        by sjames (1099) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:38PM (#19669383) Homepage

        What I really wonder about is the converse. How many highly useful (in humans) drugs have been abandoned at an early stage because they had no effect on mice.

        It's interesting that LSD was thought to have little more than a very mild stimulant effect (and had been abandoned in favor of more promising lysergic acid compounds) until Hoffman got some of it on him and took the first acid trip. Apparently either it's not all that apparent when a mouse is tripping or mice don't trip.

        He was looking for a better medication to stop uterine bleeding.

        See this [flashback.se].

        I wonder what other "uninteresting" substances have been ignored because they don't happen to have any effect on humans in microgram doses and don't effect mice in any dosage.

        Unfortunatly, there's no much of a solution to that since we can't have people randomly ingesting chemical experiments just to see.

        • by dosquatch (924618) * on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @08:55PM (#19670553) Journal

          Unfortunatly, there's no much of a solution to that since we can't have people randomly ingesting chemical experiments just to see.

          You've never been to a frat party, have you?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by NewsWatcher (450241)
          I remember reading that penicillin is toxic to guinea pigs, so if that had been tested on them instead of mice, it would probably have never been released.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Charcharodon (611187)
          That is kind of like how the artificial sweetener Saccharin got pulled from the shelves over a decade ago after they found it caused cancer in mice. It turns out to get the equivalent dosage into humans as they were giving the lab mice, one would have to have eaten 15lbs of Saccharin every day. Once this came to light they redid the tests at normal levels with both mice and primates, it still ended up causing cancer in mice, but only in mice, it had no affect on the primates.
        • Alexander Shulgin develops and ingests all of the psychoactive drugs that he has invented over the years, and has written two books on the subject; Phenethylamines I've known and loved ( PIHKAL ), and Tryptamines I've known and Loved (TIHKAL).

          He was for a long time given immunity from the law in order to develop and test the substances he made basically by taking either a base phenethylamine or tryptamine molecule and then attaching every possible configuration of atoms around say, a phen's benzine ring
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Excellent to hear, I know of a family that has an autistic set of twins, but I'm not sure if it is caused by the weak X syndrome, that only accounts for a certain amount of autism cases, regardless, I've seen what it's like to live with autistic children, it is not an easy life
    • Not so Definitely (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      This is definitely a good thing. Definitely. Definitely.

      I may be bucking the general consensus, but a lot of people would not consider this a good thing.

      First, there are the religious types, who dissapprove because "that's how God made them."

      Then there are the parents (religious or not) who say "my child is special and I wouldn't want them any other way." You'd be surprised how often this sentiment gets expressed.

      Not everyone believes that (and I don't mean it in a negative sense) is a laudible goal for science. [wikipedia.org]

      • by Rakishi (759894) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @05:21PM (#19668595)

        I may be bucking the general consensus, but a lot of people would not consider this a good thing.
        If its severe autism make them take care of the autistic kid for a few years and I'm sure almost all will be begging for the drug.

        First, there are the religious types, who dissapprove because "that's how God made them."
        Most don't seem to mind current medicine so thats a moot point.

        Then there are the parents (religious or not) who say "my child is special and I wouldn't want them any other way." You'd be surprised how often this sentiment gets expressed.
        When you need to deal with an autistic kid for their whole life then I'd be surprised if you didn't rationalize it somehow to keep your own sanity.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KingSkippus (799657) *

        First, there are the religious types, who dissapprove because "that's how God made them." Then there are the parents (religious or not) who say "my child is special and I wouldn't want them any other way." You'd be surprised how often this sentiment gets expressed.

        I wouldn't say that "a lot of people" feel this way.

        Also, I won't beat around the bush: These people are stupid idiots that ought to be arrested for severe child abuse. Anyone who thinks this for any reason is a bad and extraordinarily self

        • by dugjohnson (920519) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:05PM (#19669053) Homepage
          I have to think that the people who say that are mostly saying it because, to date, there hasn't been a way for their child to be any different than they are. It certainly can't help the development of the autistic child for the parent to be running around lamenting the fate that has produced such a child. These statements indicate acceptance of the child as they are, not, as it appears on the surface, that they wouldn't really accept a cure if it were available. I think you would be VERY hard pressed to find a parent who wouldn't go for a cure if it were available. Not saying there are none, just an incredibly small number. And in those cases, a baseball bat might be in order.
          I just think you need to cut the parents who make those statements some slack. They are dealing with a very difficult situation.
          • by CptPicard (680154) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @09:36PM (#19670847)
            It's an interesting issue I have come across as I've been involved in the (European) disability rights movement. Some people within it are VERY much against treating disability as a "medical flaw" in the person that is in need of a cure; they have internalized disability so deeply, that it almost offends their identity to suggest disability is something a cure should be sought for. Instead, according to the so-called "social model" of disability, the hindrances are not caused by the disability, but because there is a mismatch between the person's abilities and the surrounding society.

            I've had long discussions about this with a certain otherwise bright girl with CP who is nevertheless an unyielding hippie and who claims that seriously, she wouldn't want to be cured even if a cure were available, as it would alter who she is. And this is a person who is in a wheelchair. Considering that I am a wheelchair-using cripple too, that kind of a position is hard to comprehend. Make my bones not break easily and give me some 50cm more height and my life would be much easier, and I don't think I would lose anything I particularly love about my life!

            Of course, the whole medical/social model of disability discussion which unfortunately seems to preoccupy so much of the minds involved in the disability movement is just semantic bullshit that seeks to shift the "blame" for the issue away from the person, and make us feel less like medical objects that need to be conformant to some ideal we don't fit. IMO, while there is limited sense in arguing that people have the right to be who they are, mostly this seems to just expose insecurities in disabled thought... there is a need to be so defensive of our disability, that we end up actually hurting our own cause by saying that the problem doesn't really even exist, and that attempts to make things better on a personal, "individual-altering" basis are "wrong"! Worse yet, producing sociology papers on this topic is such huge intellectual masturbation that I am absolutely certain the time and effort could be better used trying to find actual, pragmatic solutions to issues...

            I guess some people are just so traumatized by the almost imagined "blame" and medical "objectification" that they just aren't able to see that it would be OK to accept a cure... at least to me to be able to say that is liberating. My disability is not "my identity"; it's very much a mere medical issue, nothing else. And as such, it is hopefully treatable in the future, if not in my case, but in some future person's case. (But let's not go here to the fact that for my diagnosis the "cure" tends to be abortion these days, and I'm around because fetal diagnostics weren't there in 1979...)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I agree completely.

            My brother has two sons, one very mildly autistic, one not so mildly. I have not sent him a link for this article for two reasons: (1) he and his wife probably have all kinds of well-meaning friends who have e-mailed this link, and (2) hope is painful, and the limited amount of hope that this offers is comes nowhere near the pain that would ensue.

            The studies right now are only showing results for a particular kind of autism. This does not cover all of the different types that exist. This
        • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:09PM (#19669085)
          People are different. The heavy rush of attempts to narrowly define normal and drug people into changing is disturbing. Take ADHD and other "diagnosis." At what percentage of showing up is something no longer legitimately a disorder, and rather is a type of person.

          As a parent, I'm extremely nervous when we let people define "normal" and call everyone outside of normal a "disorder" that needs treatment. When you start with treating genetic code, there is a fine difference between treating a disease (a good thing), and fundamentally changing a child because they aren't how you want.

          I notice that there is a lot of straw man stereotyping of people "religious types two posts ago" and from you "stupid idiots that ought to be arrested for severe child abuse." I've also noticed the people who feel other parents should be arrested for doing things that they don't approve of generally don't have children.

          There was a time that people were allowed to be different. They might be mocked, ostracized, or made fun of, but being different and having different values shouldn't be criminal. There is no "one right way" to raise children.

          The human gene pool is pretty shallow as is, this rush to eugenically change things isn't necessarily good for the species.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by happyemoticon (543015)

            The comparison to ADHD is false. In many cases I have seen, "hyperactivity" is simply the result of having a smart, energetic kid in a classroom where an authoritarian teacher refuses to let them excel.

            I believe that my experiences as a person who still struggles for social success, but, perhaps as a consequence of this, does not struggle in other areas gives me some room to comment on this. As I am - that is, I can be sociable but with effort - I would not trade my advantages for greater sociability and

            • by ppanon (16583) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @11:22PM (#19671545) Homepage Journal

              The comparison to ADHD is false. In many cases I have seen, "hyperactivity" is simply the result of having a smart, energetic kid in a classroom where an authoritarian teacher refuses to let them excel.
              And a large portion of the other time, it's kids who are hopped on refined sugars because its a substantial ingredient to all the off-the-shelf packaged meals fed to them by their working parents.

              Apparently I was quite hyperactive when I was a kid. Then my parents cut out sweets and pop and I became a lot more manageable without any setback to my intellectual or physical development. To this day, most frozen prepared foods or desserts taste too sweet to me. They get prepared with lots of sugars and MSG because they are cheaper than real spices for making something taste less bland. I also can't stand the chemical after-taste from most "sugar-free" drinks and foods; that's probably not a bad thing.

              Some people wonder why the western world has an epidemic of diabetic and obese people, but it's not a big mystery to me. Some form of sugar is in most things you buy pre-packaged: frozen dinners, hamburger patties, spaghetti sauce, most other sauces, salad dressings, etc. Go back to basics and cook with spices and simple ingredients. If you only have time to by pre-packaged meals, refuse to buy any with sugars in it (sucrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.). Wean your kids off sugar and, in the long run, they'll thank you, though your dentist probably won't.
        • by Nebu (566313) <nebu.gta@igs@net> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:11PM (#19669107) Homepage

          Then there are the parents (religious or not) who say "my child is special and I wouldn't want them any other way."
          These people are stupid idiots that ought to be arrested for severe child abuse. Anyone who thinks this for any reason is a bad and extraordinarily selfish parent and should immediately have their children taken away from them. Anyone who would deliberately impose a curable handicap on their children should be beaten, and I'd be happy to volunteer to be the one who brings the baseball bat and takes the first few swings. I sure as hell don't think I'd be the last one, either.

          I'm also confident you won't be the last one. But I'm worried you (and your peers) may be overly judging things too rashly.

          I am autistic, and I don't consider my condition to be a handicap. Autism makes some parts of my life more difficult, but it makes other parts of my life easier. I imagine it's like being taller than average: some things are easier (reaching the top shelf) and some things are harder (fitting into a small car). It's hard to say whether, from a utilitarian perspective, one way is overall "better" than the other. It'd be an ideal world if it happened to balanced out perfectly so that someone with my degree of autism had exactly the same potential for joy and suffering as a neurotypical person, however I suspect the probability of that is low. I don't want you to discount the idea that perhaps my life is easier than a neurotypical person, and that my degree of autism may actually be an advantage. It's certainly a possibility.

          Furthermore, the parents may be working under the (I think) reasonable assumption that there are risks to every medical treatment. There's a strong belief that autism is hereditary, and so if I have a child, I'm open to the possibility that may be born autistic. Given that my life turned out pretty good, I'd probably favour not having medical procedures done on a child, all other things being equal.

          To clarify, I'm fully willing to take into account my doctor's advice and opinions. If the doctor told me "Your child is extremely autistic, and will probably require 24/7 supervision and will never learn to speak. I strongly recommend we go through with the treatment, as the risks are very minor.", then I'd probably sign whatever forms were necessary and let the autism get "cured". On the other hand, if the doctor says "Your child has some signs of high functioning autism. If untreated, he'll probably end up within the same spectrum range as you. We can apply a treatment, but there are some very minor risks. It's your call, do you want to proceed?" I'd probably respond with "No. I enjoyed my life. I think he will too."

        • by xero314 (722674) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:14PM (#19669149)

          These people are stupid idiots that ought to be arrested for severe child abuse.
          I didn't know that allowing your children to think differently than societal standards was child abuse.

          Anyone who would deliberately impose a curable handicap on their children should be beaten.
          You mean we should go out an beat people who allow there kids to be homosexual, I mean I have heard that is a curable handicap. Or are you just waiting for gene therapy to allow people of african decent to rid themselves of the skin discoloration handicap they have.

          And don't even think of telling me I'm way off base. Being close minded, like you obviously are, is a curable handicap as well and I know a number of people that would be happy to beat your parents for allowing you to continue being this way.

          Really it's people like you that reinforce my belief that evolution is dead since we keep "curing" every mutation that comes along.
        • by ndansmith (582590) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @07:05PM (#19669595)

          Also, I won't beat around the bush: These people are stupid idiots that ought to be arrested for severe child abuse. Anyone who thinks this for any reason is a bad and extraordinarily selfish parent and should immediately have their children taken away from them. Anyone who would deliberately impose a curable handicap on their children should be beaten, and I'd be happy to volunteer to be the one who brings the baseball bat and takes the first few swings. I sure as hell don't think I'd be the last one, either.

          What if we do not agree on what makes a handicap? I know that some people in the deaf community choose not to get cochlear implants (as close to a "cure" as we have) because they do not perceive deafness as something needing a cure.
        • On forcing cures (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @07:14PM (#19669651) Homepage Journal
          Is it too much to make sure that the cure not be worse than the disease?
          The fella who invented the lobotomy got a Nobel Prize. Lobotomies were very effective at controlling emotions that were otherwise hard to control--this is before the modern psych drug was invented. But it cut a few nerves critical to normal social functioning in the process.
          There is also the paradox of anti-depressants spurring suicidal thoughts, and the problem of older anti-depressants depressing every variety of thought. Those drugs were and are very nearly forced on people when the conditions they treat are caught, but I'm not certain that it's always to the best for the patients.
          This fragile-X cure also messes with nerves fairly directly. The BBC suggests that this shouldn't make any variants of the lobotomy problem--we're talking redardation-autism, not Aspergerish autism--but some of us do want to be sure the side-effects aren't worse than the disease.
        • by Coppit (2441)
          Actually these are *exactly* the sentiments of the deaf community. Most don't see anything wrong with being deaf, and many consider it borderline child abuse to give your kid a cochlear implant.
        • Just to clarify, because obviously some of you don't get it: I have nothing against autistic people. Some of them are quite cool people. If they make an informed consent to refuse treatment for their condition, good for them, and I support them 100%. But we're not talking about an adult making an informed decision about the state of their own health here. We're talking about someone making a decision about the state of someone else's health based not on what's in the best interests of that person, but t

      • Odd...I've never heard either of those arguments, and I know a couple who are religious and have an Autistic child. I doubt they'd want to have their kid in the first round of tests, but I highly doubt they'd reject it because 'that's how God made them' (an odd sentiment as Autism, to all intents and purposes and without meaning to be insulting, appears to be a disease or at least genetic problem, something introduced by the Fall, and so fixing it isn't a bad thing, 'least that's my impression of it).

        Now th
  • by also-rr (980579) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:22PM (#19667851) Homepage
    Is a drug that turns people into mice and 99% of diseases will be a solved problem.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:36PM (#19668053)
      > Is a drug that turns people into mice and 99% of diseases will be a solved problem.

      "Stop giving away our plans, Pinky, or I shall have to hurt you."

    • by mattsucks (541950)
      Is a drug that turns people into mice and 99% of diseases will be a solved problem.

      Are you kidding? Mice die from EVERYTHING! Don't you ever read medical research?
  • great (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:22PM (#19667861) Homepage
    Just being small and furry makes it hard for mice to socialize at parties. I can't even imagine how hard it would be for an autistic mouse.
  • I hope further research enable the technique to be used on humans.

    News That Matters.
  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:23PM (#19667871) Journal
    They are not sure what causes most forms of autism. The fragile X disease is something in it's own category.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by N3WBI3 (595976)
      Its a grant ploy, similar to the sales ploy used by guardisil (sp) which does not prevent all of the HPV nor all the subset of HPV that causes cervical cancer but if we say this stops cancer we can get states ot mandate it for grade school girls. Both things are good (mitigating the effects of hanging x and preventing hpv) but neither is the solution as advertised..
    • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:30PM (#19667993) Homepage Journal
      Also, gender chromosome related conditions are almost exclusive to men, whether the defect is on the X or the Y chromosome (the reason being that women have two X chromosomes, and a healthy one will usually mask the damaged one). So this might have some impact on treatment of certain types of male autism. Yes, that may be a narrow scope, but it's better than no scope at all.

      Regards,
      --
      *Art
      • by xero314 (722674)

        gender chromosome related conditions are almost exclusive to men

        It would be better put to say that chromosome related conditions are predominantly apparent in males. There are Fragile X females, but they tend to have symptoms to a much lesser degree unless they had both a fragile X father and mother. The interesting thing is that this process that reduces the symptoms of Fragile X syndrome will actually make Dual Fragile X females more likely as Fragile X males will receive more opportunities to reproduces, having more societally acceptable traits.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022)
        As far as I know the following abnormality isn't observed in autistic people:

        People with Fragile X Syndrome have more dendritic spines than usual, but each is longer and thinner, and transmits weaker electric signals.

        The only similarity is that fragile X syndrome has autism like symptoms. A bladder infection may give you the same symptoms as prostate cancer, but are entirely different.
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        Even our genes are prolific risk takers. "I store my data like I store my genes, baby -- I keep no backups, but I give away copies for free! Woo!"
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mehemiah (971799)
      This is a very good point. The symptoms of the Autism spectrum are exhibited through social interaction, i don't think we understand the social habits of mice well enough to say if we have actually cured it in the specimen.
      • It's easier than it looks.
        People with severe autism have no social life, for various reasons.
        Mice with active cases of "severe autism" likely also have no social life. Keep them in cages with other mice, and it should be easy to tell which mice couldn't care less that there are other mice in their cages.
        If an experimental treatment suddenly makes an "autistic" mouse notice and care that there are other mice in its cage, then it is treating the autism.
    • by TheMeuge (645043)
      Absolutely...

      Autism is a syndrome, which can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, most of which remain elusive thus far. Fragile-X is just too easy and crude of a model.
  • by freg (859413) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:26PM (#19667937)
    I'm curious, how do u get a bunch of mice who are autistic to test? Do they make them this way through breeding or do they check thousands of mice brains to find the one poor mouse with autism? As far as I know there's no way to give something autism.
    • by N3WBI3 (595976) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:32PM (#19668017) Homepage
      The autism they are dealing with is from hanging 'x' syndrome all you need to do is find a female who is trait positive (has on malformed x) and breed her. 50% of her male offspring will have the condition. You can, through trial and error, get a female with the condition by then using that male and a trait positive female (but not the mother thats icky). All of *that* females male offspring will have the condition. This is not an autism cure it is a cure for a 'type' of autism.
      • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:44PM (#19668157) Journal
        You could do that, but they were actually using an engineered mouse strain with the FMR1 gene knocked out.
        • by N3WBI3 (595976)
          Bah thats not science! Not fun science anyway...

          Now go and get my mouse a doll house bedroom set, light the candles, put on some soft jazz and load up the water bottle with covasie!

      • The autism they are dealing with is from hanging 'x' syndrome all you need to do is find a female who is trait positive (has on malformed x) and breed her.

        I keep trying to breed with a trait positive female mouse, but after a few drinks all she wants to do is run around on her wheel. What am I doing wrong?
  • Daniel Benoit (Score:2, Informative)

    by poot_rootbeer (188613)
    There have been reports that Daniel Benoit, the 7-year-old boy murdered by his pro-wrestler father Chris Benoit over the weekend, suffered from fragile X syndrome.

    While it would be irresponsible to speculate whether the boy's (unconfirmed) condition had any relation to the horrible acts... I'll do it anyway, because I'll be damned if the media's speculation that Chris had "roid rage" was any less irresponsible or harmful.

    If Chris Benoit took his son's life because he felt it was more merciful than allowing
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Skyshadow (508) *
      If Chris Benoit took his son's life because he felt it was more merciful than allowing to live with this condition,

      Right. And what condition was his wife living with when he strangled her the night before again?

  • Further information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaqenn (996058) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:33PM (#19668019)
    Here's some information for those of you interested. I'm not an authority on this, except that I once did a 6 minute presentation for one of my biology classes.

    Some researchers believe that autism causes it's havoc by interfering with the brains ability to prune existing connections between neurons. This is also pointed at as the reason that many autistic children appear normal for the first X months of development...they have to build up enough neurons linked to everything else before they lose the ability to function.

    For the same reason, many believe that treatments that restore the brains ability to prune those connections could restore normal function to people with autism, even if they are already adults.

    Joyous times, indeed.
    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:39PM (#19668105)
      I'm not an authority on this, except that I once did a 6 minute presentation for one of my biology classes. On the Slashdot scale, that makes you a Doctor of Autistic Studies.
      • Autism is a spectrum.
        extrovert... "normal"... introvert... geek... slashdot reader ...AHDH... asperger's syndrome ... mild autism ...full-on autism.
        2009: "Autism cured, Slashdot readership plummets."
      • by PCM2 (4486)
        Actually, this topic is a unique case. As it turns out, there are people on Slashdot with multiple degrees in autism.
    • > Some researchers believe that autism causes it's havoc by interfering with the brains ability to prune existing connections between neurons So why do people with autistic have such *specific* disorders, such as problems with modeling other minds? This sounds like the biological equivalent of claiming some bug is caused by "a C++ function computing some binary digits incorrectly".
    • by LParks (927321)
      That idea would, on the surface, seem to be consistent with certain Autistic traits, such as being able to memorize a phone book. All the information is "linked," and never "unlinked." Whereas unimportant information is typically discarded quickly among non-Autistics.
    • It's very good that non functional people can be brought into consciousness but the BBC description of the symptoms, cause and cure show potential for massive abuse:

      They found that inhibiting the enzyme stopped mice with Fragile X Syndrome behaving in erratic ways. Prior to treatment they showed signs of hyperactivity, purposeless and repetitive movements.

      People with Fragile X Syndrome have more dendritic spines than usual, but each is longer and thinner, and transmits weaker electric signals.

      Using pur

    • But did you stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night?
  • Finally (Score:2, Funny)

    by katterjohn (726348)
    We've been needing some of that down here in the South for a looong time...
  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:34PM (#19668039)
    but then in the morning you find yourself unable to count matches spilled on the floor, break the bank playing blackjack and eventually communicate with the objects around you. Beware, beware.
  • Reference (Score:3, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:37PM (#19668075) Journal
    The paper seems to be this [nih.gov]. (It's freely accessible but I'm not going to fry the PNAS site by directly linking a PDF.)

    One thing to note is that this isn't a drug; it's a dominant negative transgene, so you're not going to popping pills for this any time soon.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      One thing to note is that this isn't a drug; it's a dominant negative transgene, so you're not going to popping pills for this any time soon.
      I bet that didn't stop Keith Richards from getting high on it during the 1970s...
  • by CrashPoint (564165)
    Sadly, the project was cut short when the mice intentionally reversed the treatments, having found themselves unable to relate to their newly-lovestruck trainers.
  • Why is it that all the good things happen to mice? I have to agree with Scott Adams' views [typepad.com] on this one.
  • So did they stop giving them shots with thimerosal?
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <<VE3OGG> <at> <rac.ca>> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:51PM (#19668227)
    I have always wondered how such a cure for (types of) autism would be handled when you factor in the push by some to recognize Autism as merely another frame of mind (so to speak). Similar to the mutants in X-Men III when faced with the cure, parents would be faced with allowing their child to grow up austistic (with all the advantages it conveys, and all of the disadvantages) or to give the child a "normal" life, however that may be defined and again, with all the benefits and drawbacks thereof.

    Autism Acceptance [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022)
      Maybe we should have a 'Diabetes Acceptance' movement where we let people with diabetes go into shock as nature intended them too.

      It's a shame there is still a stigma attached to helping people with mental problems....
      BTW I have a son diagnosed with autism and it is heart breaking seeing him struggle with things that are so easy for others.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      with all the advantages it conveys, and all of the disadvantages

      I'm just curious, but to what are you referring to as "advantages?" Autism runs in my family and I'm hard pressed to see how it has given them any advantages in life. I have 7 cousins and one uncle with varying degrees of autism. My uncle is an autistic savant[1] with an incredible command of military history and equipment, but the mental maturity of a 6 year old. He has an incredible capability, but his disability leaves him unable to put it to any practical use. As for my cousins, their level of d

    • You raise a good point. The topic has been pretty well explored in sci-fi as well. Consider the ultimate regret of the character of Wang Mu from Card's Children of the Mind -- or, more appropriately, the tragedy of Matthew from Asimov's short story "Light Verse [wikipedia.org]". Will the solution be worth what one gives up for it? If such a "cure" is available, who will be allowed to make that decision? It will be far too easy to argue that an autistic individual isn't in a position to decide such things for himself.

      More d
  • Mental stability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by steveo777 (183629) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @04:53PM (#19668259) Homepage Journal
    I've known a few autistic people growing up. Either through school, church, or friends. And I have to wonder. With all the support, drugs and training that goes into helping these people live 'normal' lives... what would happen if this gene therapy could cure adults? I'm well aware that this treatment is far from being used on any human, and I'm all for curing disease, so don't get me wrong. But will some one just wake up and feel 'free'? Or will it take time for them to get used to thinking 'normally'?

    Maybe the answer is just as simple as 'cured'. But something tells me that it will never be that simple.

    • by Nebu (566313)

      I've known a few autistic people growing up. Either through school, church, or friends. And I have to wonder. With all the support, drugs and training that goes into helping these people live 'normal' lives... what would happen if this gene therapy could cure adults? I'm well aware that this treatment is far from being used on any human, and I'm all for curing disease, so don't get me wrong. But will some one just wake up and feel 'free'? Or will it take time for them to get used to thinking 'normally'?

      M

      • by Reziac (43301) *
        I'm reminded of a conversation with someone who INSISTED on always driving a stick shift, because that was What She Did. It was part of her identity, if you will.

        It came about that she couldn't find a suitable car with a stick, so she finally got one with an automatic transmission. First comment about the new car:

        "I can't believe I did all that extra work for all those years! this is SO much nicer!"

        I suspect a great many disabled people would react similarly, should they "lose" their disability, even if the
  • Algernon (Score:4, Funny)

    by chuckymonkey (1059244) <{charles.d.burton} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @05:17PM (#19668529) Journal
    "P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard."
  • The Speed of Dark (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sibko (1036168)
    This is really fascinating. There's a rather good book I read, "The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon that talks about this very thing.

    "If I had not been what I am, what would I have been?" wonders Lou Arrendale, the autistic hero of Moon's compelling exploration of the concept of "normalcy" and what might happen when medical science attains the knowledge to "cure" adult autism. Arrendale narrates most of this book in a poignant earnestness that verges on the philosophical and showcases Moon's gift for characterization. The occasional third-person interjections from supporting characters are almost intrusive, although they supply needed data regarding subplots. At 35, Arrendale is a bioinformatics specialist who has a gift for pattern analysis and an ability to function well in both "normal" and "autistic" worlds. When the pharmaceutical company he works for recommends that all the autistic employees on staff undergo an experimental procedure that will basically alter their brains, his neatly ordered world shatters. All his life he has been taught "act normal, and you will be normal enough"-something that has enabled him to survive, but as he struggles to decide what to do, the violent behavior of a "normal friend" puts him in danger and rocks his faith in the normal world. He struggles to decide whether the treatment will help or destroy his sense of self. Is autism a disease or just another way of being? He is haunted by the "speed of dark" as he proceeds with his mesmerizing quest for self-"Not knowing arrives before knowing; the future arrives before the present. From this moment, past and future are the same in different directions, but I am going that way and not this way.... When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same." His decision will touch even the most jaded "normal."

  • by Joebert (946227)
    There's no possibility of a 7'6" 320LB retarded kid having parts of his brain repaired that would make him realize he was being picked on or remember the names of those people with this research, right ?
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @05:33PM (#19668733) Journal
    I for one welcome our socially outgoing, well-adjusted, fuzzy minuscule overlords.
  • Dupe? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ozbird (127571) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @05:41PM (#19668825)
    "Flowers for Algernon", Daniel Keyes...
  • But, People magazine and Tom Cruise told me that vaccines cause autism! How can a vaccine cure autism?

  • by occamboy (583175) on Wednesday June 27, 2007 @06:08PM (#19669075)
    One difficulty is that the psychology community keeps insisting that there is something called an "autism spectrum". Last time I did some research on this, I could not find a single piece of evidence to support a spectrum - in fact, the little evidence that existed indicated that there are several distinct conditions that have some symptoms in common.
  • So, when can we expect giant otters [southparkstudios.com] to run the world?

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

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