Saturday, February 11, 2017

New MIT lab wants to cure autism

In the occasionally some news is good news department, Gadfly is happy to report that there's a new kid on the block, a new lab at MIT started with a private donation, that has expressed a desire to find a cure and prevention for autism.  Hock Tan and Lisa Yang, parents of two autistic children and MIT alumni, have donated 20 million dollars for this laboratory.  In another article they state they want to erase the devastating effects of autism and want a world free of the burdens of autism.  I had wondered if it were possible to use CRISPR genetic editing techniques to prevent or at least do something to help  autism.  Interestingly enough, CRISPR is something that they are interested in using.

Interestingly, Bob DeSimone who runs MIT's brain research lab stated that NIH would not have supported their research in a million years and that the techniques they plan to use are too far out.

Now that Autism Speaks has announced they no longer seek to cure and prevent autism and very mildly autistic board member Stephen Shore has chortled over this with glee on facebook, I'm glad someone else is willing to pick up the mantle and actually try to do something.

However, from the neurodiversity movement's point of view, dem's fighting words.  Cure, prevention, burden are sure to provoke the ire and rancor of these angry and vicious hatemongers.

Tan and Yang's wealth will obliterate the need for the advertising that autism speaks engaged in during their pre sell-out days that angered so many people and led to the cry of "eugenics".  Other than AS, the government, and the Simons Foundation, I've never heard of anyone giving this kind of money for autism research.

There has already been some ND activity over this.  Michelle Dawson has tweeted about this.  More pronounced were the words of Michael J. Carley who stated in the comments section of the first article I linked to:  Cure"? Are you serious? It's 2017! Shame on MIT, an otherwise smart and ethical institution.  The irascible Forbes contributor Emily Willingham has tweeted that numerous autistics have graduated from MIT and asks "you want to prevent them"  An individual on twitter named Michael H who states he's a behavioral neuroscientist and a special educator has called the lab "ableist"  So one is a bigot if they want to cure autism (I may be updating this blog post if I see more angry responses from ND's)

Interesting that the "shame on MIT" comment comes from someone who can get an advanced degree from Columbia, make a decent living, get married twice and have two children he can support (something which most autistics, myself included, will never be able to accomplish).  Not to mention the fact he was diagnosed with Asperger's who did not want to call himself autistic because he didn't want to be lumped in with people who bang their heads and wear adult diapers.  Also, an individual who used someone's death from terminal cancer to aggrandize himself. 

I don't know if this lab's work will ever benefit anyone with autism, particularly in my lifetime, but I wanted to write this post, because I'm so glad that someone has the audacity to express how horrible autism is and uses that nasty four letter word that Carley and others are so offended by.  I can only hope they won't sell out to neurodiversity the way the government and autism speaks have.

10 comments:

Jake Crosby said...

Slush fund research.

Anonymous said...

I visit your blog occasionally and enjoy it. Thanks. I'll look into the new MIT project. I've been reading up on the multisensory temporal binding window work and think it has lots of potential for working with and understanding autism and you may want to post your own views at some point :)

Denise

jonathan said...

@Denise, I know nothing about the multisensory temporal binding work, so can't really post my views on it. Thanks for the kind words about my blog

marytormey said...

The problem is money follows money and the money has been going into proving untrue things for military purposes for a very long time.
Actinide Series, a Warning?
Thorium, Thunder, God
Protactinium, Protect, The First
Uranium, Your Anus, Sky, heaven
Neptunium, Sea, God
Plutonium, Hades, Hell, God
Americium, America
Curium, Cure
Berkelium, Berkeley
Californium, California
Einsteinium, Einstein, Nuclear Bomb, Relativity
Fermium, Terraferma, Earth Solid, Solid Ground
Mendelevium, Mendel, Mangle, Mengele (peas are a heck of a drug)
Nobelium, Nobel, Nobel Peace Prize
Lawrencium, Law, Lawrence of Arabia (died in 1935)

The big question is was Josef Mangele in Berkeley California in 1945?
Was he the one who recommended the use of Fluoridated water in Contra-Costa county in 1945
http://www.ccwater.com/424/Water-Fluoridation

The True Story of Lawrence of Arabia
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-lawrence-arabia-180951857/

Gwen Kansen said...

I'm hopeful about CRISPR research in general. I think autism's going to be tougher because we haven't even managed to sequence it yet. I'm assuming this won't happen in time to help me either. But experimental research leads to great things. Check out The Berlin Patient.

jonathan said...

@Gwen I doubt CRISPR will be able to do anything about most forms of autism, because the genetics of it are complicated and probably not entirely genetic and there is probably a significant environmental interplay interacting with the genetics. It could be helpful for a minority of cases that are the result of Mendelian inheritance such as tuberous sclerosis which involves one autosomal dominant gene and some forms of autism that involve an autosomal recessive gene where you acquire one copy from each parent. Even among those, it might not help those already born but rather when they're fetuses, the neurodiversigy eugenics argument aside.

I think this lab will do more than just CRISPR as they are also interested in neuroscience stuff. They may not have anything that will help people anytime in the forseeable future, but i'm hopeful more research can be done like this that will help people sometime.

EK Aspie said...

It is The Boston Herald that used the word "cure". The researchers did not.

EK Aspie said...

I found a link where the doners hope the money will be used for a cure
http://www.philly.com/philly/health/Main-Line-couple-gives-millions-to-MIT-for-autism-research.html

jonathan said...

EK Aspie you may be correct about that. I'm not sure how the donors or the researchers feel about curing autism, but I think it's safe to assume, it's likely they believe in the cure prevention philosophy and that is why they gave 20 million dollars for the startup costs for the lab. I suspect at least a few of the researchers may have a stake in autism and want cure and prevention also.

Anonymous said...

Crispr Cas 9 has the potential to modify gene expression not just genes, so they can also deal with enviromental causes of autism. A normal identical twin of an autistic person has the same genes but different gene expression. Also some genes control others, if they replace one gene with a different variant that does not respond to the same enviromental factors (like they are doing now with lung cancer from cigarette smoking) it can also help.