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Autism: Still a Mystery

But we're learning more - Scientists have determined that people often look like their dogs, now a canine chromosome explains why they sometimes ACT like them too. This chromosome, which confers a high risk of the person who has it developing a compulsive disorder, may be linked to both human autism and dogs. Researchers are now discovering that autism is often overlooked in girls and is tied to anorexia. At least there's one less thing to worry about: Vaccines do NOT cause autism.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by time consuming, repetitive behaviors and affects about 2% of humans, while the equally distressing canine equivalent, canine compulsive disorder (CCD), seems to target certain dog breeds, especially Dobermans and Bull Terriers. This chromosome is known, among scientists, as CDH2 and is expressed in a specific region of the brain.Researcher Edward Ginns says, "The occurrence of repetitive behaviors and similarities in response to drug treatments in both canine CCD and human OCD suggest that common pathways are involved." He also wants to figure out the extent to which CDH2 confers risk for human OCD and autism spectrum disorders.

Since the discovery that so many human diseases are influenced by genes, geneticists have become fascinated by dog breeds. For instance, how did the Shar-pei get so wrinkly? Maybe as WE age and become more wrinkled (and maybe more lonely too), this is the type of dog to get.

Scientists have identified 155 distinct locations dogs' genetic codes that give them their distinctive appearances. For instance, the Shar-pei has a special version of the gene known as HAS2, which is important in the production of skin. In BBC News, Jonathan Amos quotes researcher Joshua Akey as saying, "There was probably a mutation that arose in that gene that led to a really wrinkly puppy and a breeder said, 'Hey, that looks interesting, I'm going to try to selectively breed this trait and make more of these dogs.'"

Most kids diagnosed with autism are boys, which means that autistic girls are often overlooked. This can be serious, since new research shows that in females, autism is often link to anorexia, a disease in which young girls starve themselves. It's been discovered that about one-fifth of anorexic girls have autism, and refusing to eat makes their autistic traits even worse. In the February 23rd edition of the Independent, psychiatrist Janet Treasure is quoted as saying, "They become more socially isolated, withdraw more and more into their own world and become cut off and lonely."

Meanwhile, the respected British medical journal "The Lancet" started the whole controversy in 1998 by drawing a link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and increased incidence of autism, but they've now retracted that study's findings. And a new study finds no evidence that the measles vaccine, given alone or as part of a combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine (which was the one that was originally connected to autism) increases the risk of autism in children.

According to The Lancet's website, "It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation. In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were 'consecutively referred' and that investigations were 'approved' by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record."

Pediatric neurologist Alan Percy says, "Over the years, study after study had found no causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism. This was of particular concern since the 1998 study was often cited by parents as a reason to not vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine. It underscores the safety and efficacy of vaccines, whether the MMR or others, and should restore the public

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