Researchers Say They’ve Found Genes That Signal Risk of Autism

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Aug 11, 2013   |   3:39PM   |   Washington, DC

Autism researchers at the Autism Center of Excellence in San Diego have found a network of genes that they say signal a risk of autism. A blood test for this “genetic signature” for children as young as 1 year old is in development.


A GENETIC “signature” of autism in babies as young as 12 months has been identified for the first time, an international conference is to be told.

A simple blood test is now being developed and may be available in one to two years, Professor Eric Courchesne will tell the Asia Pacific Autism conference in Adelaide today.

“This discovery really changes the landscape of our understanding of causes and effective treatments,” says the director of the Autism Centre of Excellence at the University of California in San Diego.

“This is going to lead to much better treatments at a much earlier stage and a large percentage of children having an excellent outcome.”

He said the several gene networks that are a common thread in autism have been identified for the first time.

“During the fourth, fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, they disrupt the production of brain cells, producing too many or in some cases too few, and how the cells are organised and connected,” he said.

“We’ve also identified four gene networks that are a ‘biological signature’ of autism in babies as young as 12 months.

“A blood screening test is being developed.

“At this stage it’s looking very promising that the blood screening test will have high accuracy, specificity and sensitivity for children at risk of autism.”



This is really good news for early diagnosis and treatment. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes may be for children with autism.

Unfortunately, I fear that if doctors begin to use this blood test in prenatal testing, a breakthrough that was meant to help diagnosis and treatment may become deadly. That is the problem with abortion; it can take every genetic discovery and turn it into a search-and-destroy mission for those very people the discovery was meant to help.

As long as abortion-on-demand remains the law of the land every new piece of the genetic puzzle will simultaneously be a blessing and a curse. Abortion makes every little genetic variation a possible death sentence for the unborn, and, as long as it remains legal, abortion will continue to cast a shadow over important discoveries like this one.