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Biotech Science

Possible Cure For Autism 431

Henry V .009 writes "Scientists in New Jersey are claiming that children with autism are unable to metabolize key fatty acids that fight brain-damaging inflammations. They have already developed urine/blood tests to identify at-risk children. A preventive cure to autism may be as simple as a 'therapeutic cocktail' of fatty acids. Human trials could start later this year."
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Possible Cure For Autism

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  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @11:55PM (#18077280)
    ... definitely, definitely.

    • They also take care of the largest population of patients with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, where the people self mutilate themselves, biting off their lips/tongues,fingers, etc. They often have most of their teeth prophylatically extracted to prevent bodily harm. What's worse is that they know when they are about to start doing it, and will ask for help to be restrained.

      New Jersey is also the state with the most Nobel prize laureates (although, I'm not sure about that now, since a few died).
      • New Jersey is also the state with the most Nobel prize laureates (although, I'm not sure about that now, since a few died).

              You'd think they'd have figured that little bit out by now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Quick, patent the fix now or else the little shitheads will get cured without coughing up some $10,000/vial.
  • by kraemate ( 1065878 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @11:56PM (#18077288)
    What will happen now to the legions of slashdotters who claim to suffer from autism/aspergers ? How can i relate to Knuth now? I'm doomed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Duncan3 ( 10537 )
      Knuth has neither.
    • by Deliberate_Bastard ( 735608 ) <doslund@cs.ucr. e d u> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:46AM (#18077716)
      Wishful thinking, really.

      People want to believe that Aspies are fakers, because Aspies generally inspire dislike, which makes people want an excuse for disliking them.

      The issue is, if people are really faking, and they *can* be likable, what is it they need an excuse for? Saying that someone is faking Asperger's to have an excuse is a bit like saying someone is faking Tourette's to have an excuse for shouting obscenities in public. If they *didn't* have Tourette's, why would they be shouting them in the first place?

      (Because it's a lot more pleasant to fit in than to not fit in, but have an excuse, even if the excuse is accepted.)
      • by kmac06 ( 608921 )
        So anyone who is an asshole or shouts obscenities in public should be given a free pass, because why would they do those things if they didn't have a psychological disorder.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Who said anything about a free pass? Regarding someone as neurologically disordered is hardly a free pass. Hell, the social stigma attached is often far worse than that for being an asshole.
      • Re:This is not good! (Score:5, Informative)

        by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @04:21AM (#18079002)
        I know a few dozen people who have self-diagnosed themselves as having Asperger's by reading the DSM and saying to themselves, "Hey, that's ME!" Some of these people are essentially dislikable, but many of them are not. A couple of them are even charming in a shy sort of way. They are odd, don't fit in, have social troubles, etc and most of them find this troublesome. They are wingnuts and nuerotics, but they are not actually aspies.

        My oldsest friend has actually been diagnosed and is on disability because he cannot perform really useful work and/or interact with people. Unlike the self-diagnosers he can creep people out just by saying hello to them, he isn't just "odd," dislikable or lacking social skills, he's clearly "wrong." People clutch their children to them when he walks by because he even moves creepy in ways that cannot be easily defined.

        But here's the thing, even though he can now talk (at tedious length) about being an Aspie he thinks he's charming - while he casually picks up someone's personal diary and starts reading it aloud in a public setting. He would have read the DSM and been absolutely clueless that he exhibited. He can say "I don't fit in," but he doesn't know he doesn't fit in.

        The real Aspie does not whine about not fitting in; he lacks the capacity to know he doesn't fit in. That's what makes him an Aspie. He walks around saying "What the fuck is wrong with them?" when people clutch their children to them when he walks by, assuming he even notices (my friend didn't know people do this until one man actually yelled at him "Stay away from my kids or I'll beat the crap out of you, you fucking creep!"). The difference between the socially awkward geek and the socially retarded Aspie is night and day when you put them next to each other. The socially awkward can go to charm school and learn; the Aspie cannot. He does not see what he is supposed to be learning and thus cannot even reproduce it on a purely mechanical level. His eyebrows or something will continue to act fucking creepy.

        One may exhibit every symptom of Asperger's to some degree or other without actually having it. It is defined by the incapacity for socialization.If you haven't been diagnosed but think you're an Aspie, you're probably just a jerk who can learn to behave better if you really want to.

        The classic Aspie isn't the socially awkward tech geek; it's the socially agressive Robert Johnson who died of trying to pick up other men's wives right in front of them; without the slightest realization that he was doing something risky. He died clueless of why he died, even while the guy knifing him was screaming "Stay away from my woman, you fucking asshole!"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eric_ykchan ( 880449 )
          Knowing a few people with ASD doesn't make you an expert to say who has and who doesn't have ASD. Whether a "real" Aspie know whether they fit in or not is not a diagnosis whether he/she is an Aspie.
        • by caudron ( 466327 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @09:55AM (#18080784) Homepage
          While I agree with you in large part (a great many people self-diagnose Asperger's especially withing our community), it's worth pointing out that you overstate, I think, the issues. While many people with the Syndrome are severe and exhibit behavior similar to that which you describe, there are those who are not as severe and very much know what we are missing. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means two things, really: 1. It covers a wide spectrum of symptoms rather than a tight clinically clear grouping and 2) those who have it fall on a spectrum of severity. One can have /slight/ autism just as likely as one can have severe autism. Indeed, severity is highly correlative with order of birth. The first child might display some symptoms, but each successive child is increasingly likely to display increasingly severe symptoms. You friends is likely fairly severe (though not as severe, it sounds, as some I've met), but that can't be used to dimiss legitimate edge cases where the autistic child will have lifelong trouble, but not so severe as to need much help...just enough to be generally unlikable.

          This is not to say you are wrong, as I think you are right. Just making suring others don't misunderstand your point and take it to mean that what you've described is the only form Asperger's takes.

          Tom Caudron
          http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
        • Re:This is not good! (Score:5, Informative)

          by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:50PM (#18082950)

          There are 2 Aspies in my family. One is my brother, one is my nephew. My brother is absolutely clueless that he doesn't fit in because he absolutely cannot recognize the subtle signs that people show to indicate that he's not being recieved well. While many Aspie people are shy because social situations bewilder them, my brother is not - he will force himself upon all and sundry and he thinks people love him because he's not able to process facial expressions etc. He's starting to get clued in now because he realises he's 40 years old and hasn't ever had a real relationship (never got past a second date) and has come to accept that maybe it *isn't* that everyone else is defective with relationships, but that he's got issues.

          My nephew is actually quite charming in a very shy sort of way. My sister told him at a very young age, when she realized that he wasn't "getting" social stuff that she would help him learn how to recognize when people were put off by him. For him, every social encounter is an excercise in observation and processing the results and making guesses - he has done it out loud before, and it is just amazing the stuff he says. "Oh, she is smiling, but her knuckles are white and her tendons are standing out on her hand and she is hunching her shoulders and she hasn't said anything except to nod and look around so I think she is nervous and wants to get away." He's 22 now, and getting better all the time - more subtle about the thinking that goes on - but he's told me that the only reason he thinks he's different from other people is because people tell him that. It just wouldn't occur to him otherwise.

          The difference between those two people and those who want to claim to have it is stark. Just being able to have the personal insight to even begin to make the attempt at self-diagnosis is something that can be a differential.

          Note: Not saying all aspies are just like my brother or nephew, all comments should be taken as qualified by "in my opinion" or "in my experience" etc. and so on.
  • Hey kids!!! Eat your cookies!

  • fatty acids (Score:3, Funny)

    by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @11:59PM (#18077328)
    So, my daily diet of fried chicken and beefaroni is responsible for me being somewhat social lately? People just said it was bad for me.

  • Bombay Gibson, sweet.

    Make it a double.
  • by SeanMon ( 929653 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:09AM (#18077406) Homepage Journal
    it won't cure autism. It sounds like the treatment would prevent the brain from being damaged, not that it would reverse any existing damage, for everyone with The Geek Syndrome.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There is alot more wrong with autistics than just a deficiency of fatty acids. To say this is a potential comprehensive cure for autism would be overhopefully to say the least. There are reasons why autistics are "unable to metabolize key fatty acids". The severe issues autistics have with heavy metals like copper and mercury and how those factor in the causes of autism are now well known.

      Furthermore, taking fatty acids wouldn't even fully prevent the brain from being damaged in an autistic. They would just
  • Ah hah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by bryanp ( 160522 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:10AM (#18077414)
    *looks down at his waistline*

    It would appear I have no problem metabolizing fatty acids. I'm definitely safe.
  • Slashdot quoting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Henry V .009 ( 518000 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:12AM (#18077436) Journal
    I know that spelling, grammar, and punctuation, are lost causes for Slashdot editors, but proper use of quotations is easy. I didn't write the sentence "human trials could start later this year." Nor is it accurate exactly. The only "human trial" starting up later this year is a preliminary study of the effects of fatty acid supplements on autistic children aged 5-7.

    Also, I'm not responsible for the story link that pops up a big Printer Dialog when you click it.
  • by tpjunkie ( 911544 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:16AM (#18077460) Journal
    There are going to be people vocally declaring that we have no right to "cure" (or prevent, as the case may be) autism, and that it's not a disease. At the same time, others will insist that we should do everything in our power to mitigate the effects of autism, which can be quite formidable...I myself know a family friend a year younger than me who has pretty severe autism, he lives in a group home, but he plays the piano like a concert pianist (and has since he was 12) as well as being completely bilingual. He is quite intelligent but really can't function independently in society. I'm going to reserve judgement on this until the trials are completed and the results are in, but I can promise that there is going to be a HUGE amount of controversy over this.
    • Yeah, but there are comparable shitstorms anytime you attempt to cure a disability.

      There was some deaf kid, and when doctors discovered that his hearing could be restored surgically, the deaf community freaked right out. Apparently some people have started to think of deafness as some wonderful gift that makes them unique and special, rather than as the hideous disability that it really is.

      I've even started hearing about people who regard Down's syndrome as a legitimate form of Human variability, rathe

      • Um, I hope you realize that there's a big difference between finding a cure for Down's Syndrome and making it easier for them to be killed before they are born.
      • Forcing a child to live their lives without a sense of hearing, or with autistism, or with any other treatable disability, is truely criminal.

        You have to be careful - generalizing doesn't always work.

        You'll get no argument from me that deafness, downs syndrome, or full-on autism are obviously detrimental compared to hearing / full mental function. The problem comes with the less obvious cases... attention deficit disorder for example, or color blindness.

        I've got a friend who is red-green color blind, and

    • Yeah, why don't they cure a more damaging disease -- like the one that causes you to be utterly unable to communicate an idea, and still expect your romantic interests to be able to immediately infer it from subtle hints. I believe the literature calls it femalism.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sbaker ( 47485 ) *
      Yes - there will be problems over this.

      The problem is that autism isn't a binary diagnosis. If you have a broken leg - fix it. If you don't have a broken leg then don't cover your leg with plaster and walk around on crutches for a couple of months. Easy choice. But Autism is a spectrum of conditions running from mild geekiness through Asperger's to someone who is completely and devastatingly cut off from the world. There's the problem. It's very clear that at one end of the line a cure is a wonderful
  • by Fizzlewhiff ( 256410 ) <jeffshannon&hotmail,com> on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:18AM (#18077472) Homepage
    Now they need to find a cure for printer dialogs.
  • Oh great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:20AM (#18077488) Homepage Journal
    Oh great. Now we'll have another drug to dope our kids up on. I predict an increase in the diagnoses of autism in children as soon as this gets marketed.

    "Drink your fatty acid cocktail, dear, your psychiatrist has a new BMW to pay for..."
    • I am sure Tom Cruise would agree to you.
    • by fabs64 ( 657132 )
      FTFS: "They have already developed urine/blood tests to identify at-risk children".
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 )
      Hey, it's YOUR retarded commercial healthcare system. You COULD have voted for a government that would ban Rx kickbacks and advertising by pharmaceutical companies directly to doctors. But you didn't, presumably because you WANTED the current system.

      Always keep this in mind: things are the way they are precisely because people want it that way. If they wanted things to be different, it's entirely within their power to change. All they have to do is stop being idiots for the 0.4 seconds it takes to put

  • Caveat: I don't know anyone with full blown autism or have much experience with anyone like that. I do, however, know a large number of people with asperger syndrome, which is often considered the low end of the autism spectrum. People with autism often have amazing abilities. They have social problems, to be sure, but if we offer people the ability to prevent/cure autism, then it will be difficult to do any research on the subject, and honestly, what's more important than how to improve the capacity of the
    • False Perception (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 )
      This is really one of those things that is completely illusory. A few people in the autistic spectrum have extraordinary skills, in much the same way that a few regular people do. It's just that in autistic people, there isn't any personality to get in the way, so those skills are really really obvious.

      There are healthy people with Savant-level mathematical skills. But no one really cares. But in someone with no real personality, someone who doesn't have conversations, someone who doesn't do any of th

  • IIRC, there was a film about this years ago. Can't remember the actress' name, might have been Meryl Streep??? Basically this mom didn't want the doctors to tell her nothing could be done, so she found some info blah blah and in the end started feeding the kid crisco or some such and all turned out better for the kid?

    Does anyone else remember this? It was a made for tv type movie.
    • It was Ms Streep, but the problem was epilepsy, and the movie is called ".. First, do no harm"
      The movies outlines a diet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_Diet [wikipedia.org] called the ketogenic diet, consisting of a coctail of fats basically. I should have went to IMDB.com first. From IMDB.com:

      10 out of 10 people found the following comment useful :-
      PG-13 - intense emotional and physical depiction of a child's illness, 20 December 2004
      Author: ryanlupin from London, England

      In this alternately heartbreaking and uplif
  • Lorenzo's Oil [wikipedia.org]? But I am no fatty acid expert.
  • simple explanation (Score:2, Informative)

    by moonbeams ( 1066254 )
    "key fatty acids" = aka Fish Oil/Cod Liver Oil = Essential Fatty Acids

    As a parent of a child with autism who follows the DAN! protocal EFAs are essential to my son's progress. He takes a daily dose of fish oil. This is nothing new or great or even a "cure"....for those of us parents who are working on recovering our children this has been around for a while.

    In fact EVERYONE can benefit from a daily dose. Its much better than the cod liver oil of the past, many are flavored now or in gel cap form, my
  • by TheMohel ( 143568 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @12:51AM (#18077768) Homepage
    Obligatory claim of relevance: I am a pediatrician with developmental training. I am also the parent of a teenager with severe autism. It is my informed (but not omniscient) opinion that the odds that this is anything other than a complete red herring are too small to measure accurately.

    We will begin with the obvious problem that they are treating autism as a single disorder. We don't know a great deal about the spectrum, but we certainly know that autistic symptoms can be found in a large number of discrete conditions. "Autism" is probably a final common pathway of subtle neurologic failure, and the idea that a single enzyme is associated has been discredited repeatedly. In fact, every time we think we've found "the" cause, more research shows us that we have found, at most, "a" cause, and usually not one that is common. Fragile X syndrome, Rett's syndrome, and others were all previously lumped in as "autism", and I don't think we're done finding things.

    The next obvious problem is that if we indeed have a single liposomal storage disease causing most or all autism, you would find it with brain biopsy and/or MRI. We have not found this. You would expect other commonalities as well, since failures of fat metabolism generally have organ impacts outside the brain. We have not found these. I would be unsurprised to discover that there is a rare disorder of this sort with autistic symptoms present, but it means nothing for the vast majority of individuals with autism.

    Don't get me wrong - I would give the rest of my life willingly if it would cure my son. I will be grateful beyond words if this works. But it won't, any more than secretin did when it was the last great hope for autism. I have learned much in the fifteen years of my son's life, and the thing I have learned most is that people who claim to have "the cure for autism" are lying. Not always in an evil fashion, and not necessarily knowingly, but they are saying something that is not true.
    • One minor niggle. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      Very likely, the autistic spectrum is the final common pathway of two (or more) independent neurological failures. MRI scans show two distinct regions of the brain to be commonly impacted with "lower-functioning" and "higher-functioning" autism, of which one is shared with Asperger's Syndrome (I think those are the mirror cells) and the other, towards the middle of the brain, is shared with schizo-effective disorders. Only the latter would appear to have even the remotest chance of being linked to inflamati
    • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @10:42AM (#18081264) Homepage Journal
      I have learned much in the fifteen years of my son's life, and the thing I have learned most is that people who claim to have "the cure for autism" are lying. Not always in an evil fashion, and not necessarily knowingly, but they are saying something that is not true.

      Man, I'm always late for these things...

      My wife is an SLP in a school for autistic children and sees the snake oil marketed to parents as a treatment for autism (of course, marketing themselves in the strictly legal sense, avoiding the magic words that'll land them in hot water). Kelation, vitamins, massage, gluen free diets, raw food diets, etc etc all make the rounds without any real results. Hell, one of her parents are both neurosurgeons who send their daughter for kelation and have a tutor come to their home to pump her head with knowledge to show off that their kid isn't a complete retard.

      Parents want their kids to be normal. Many perceive a clinician's attempt at injecting reality into the situation as an overworked teacher giving up on their kid. They'll pay any amount of money to the next charlatan to come down the pike offering nebulous claims. It's sad, I hope that there is a special level of hell for people who prey on the desperate in this fashion.
  • by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Tuesday February 20, 2007 @01:22AM (#18077970) Homepage
    As a bitter ex-UMDNJ employee, I am glad these guys actually had the money to carry out there research. Our project involving AIDS and children was shutdown as a cost-saving measure because of the various and sundry financial scandals at that hellhole. Bully for them.

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington