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ASPartOfMe
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15 Dec 2015, 3:55 am

The idea is inject people with a virus with genetic components to kill off or alter autism genes

Autism? Trauma? There's A Virus For That. New gene-editing techniques could lead us to a post-pill era. - Huffington Post

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Feng Zheng is working on creating autism models, and I’m pretty excited about how that project is going. It’s a little early to talk about, but I see some glimmers of promise on the autism horizon.


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cberg
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15 Dec 2015, 4:15 am

So normality really is a plague...


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izzeme
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15 Dec 2015, 8:53 am

So, they found the autism genes?
In that case, can i order up some of these viruses against NT children? NeuroTypicality is a horrible affliction which i wish on no child.
[/sarcasm]

This eugenics movement is a bad development. i understand that people want to cure/prevent the "posterchild" autistics (the ones A$ uses to instill fear), but killing off every autistic is throwing the baby away with the bathwater, uninformed parents have don't know what a dash of autism does in this world



ASPartOfMe
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15 Dec 2015, 9:21 am

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In China, scientists have used CRISPR to edit human embryos, an announcement that set off an explosion of ethical concerns. (The scientists used embryos that could never have been brought to term, and fewer than half the embryos were edited successfully.) We are probably still years away from scientists being able to correct genetic flaws in human embryos. But what might come sooner is the ability to treat or cure diseases in children and adults, perhaps by injecting them with a CRISPR-equipped virus that will be able to correct whatever genetic defect contributes to a given disease.


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That’s one of the reasons that the National Academy of Sciences formed a committee to consider the ethical implications of CRISPR. Because when I say it can be used in any species, that includes humans, and there is a fear that people will start human embryo manipulations. I would say a huge majority of scientists and clinicians think that it would be way premature at this stage. So I anticipate the National Academy will issue some strong advice, and a moratorium on the use of CRISPR in human embryos. And that’s not to say it will be a ban in the future, but until the risks are better understood, and until the technology is further developed, and until we have a chance to really work through all the ethical implications, there will be a lot of pressure to keep this out of human embryos.

But in other animal models, it could potentially be applicable in any of them, and in very powerful ways. It can be done quickly, it can be done cheaply.


Even after birth if you are munipulating genes for the same purposes it is variant of eugenics. Rebranding eugenics to make it more palitable is nothing new. In the last century it was rebranded as "mercy killings", "better baby contests", "fitter family".


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15 Dec 2015, 12:26 pm

A problem that I have with the discourse around 'causes' of autism (or MS, or schizophrenia, or Parkinson's, or cancer, or depression, etc) is that it is largely reductionist in nature. We would benefit from a discourse that speaks in terms of contributing factors rather than causes.

Another issue is that diagnostic criteria for autism are still largely under development and are hotly debated among researchers. The fact that so many autistic people are known to have been misdiagnosed and mistreated should make it very clear that we do not yet even have a clear set of guidelines for diagnosis that lead to highly reproducible results.

Another issue is how broad the distribution of abilities, traits, and outcomes is among the autistic population. We have people like Temple Grandin as examples of the unique type of talent is made possible by a combination of autism with a highly supportive parent and (very likely) a lot of other contributing genetic, social, and environmental factors of which very little to nothing is known.

It seems to me that the fact that a person's contingent of 'non-contributing' genes may vary quite widely from that of many others with the same 'linked' or 'contributing' genes, and with a condition that strongly and noticeably affects personality traits, it's too easy to paint everyone with those genes with the same broad brush. Likewise, there are unknown environmental and social factors which may also link to an increased risk, and these also vary widely from one person to the next.

Genetics is an extremely complex field of research in which far more is unknown than is known. It is likely that we are overestimating the proportion of what is known, compared to what is not. It is even more likely that some things we 'know' now will be proven by further research to be incorrect or incomplete.

It is very dangerous to make sweeping policy decisions on any public health issue without a sound ethical and scientific base, and I find it very alarming that anyone would be taking claims of a genetic cause OR a viral cure very seriously at this point. We just aren't there yet, and it would be a tragic mistake to act prematurely.



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15 Dec 2015, 12:31 pm

Considering the disparities between cell lines that play into my AS, it's nigh impossible to see how such a treatment might sidestep killing me. I know humans are capable of engineering virii, I just also know we're sloppy about targeting them.

Is their delivery method a bed of nails?


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BuyerBeware
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15 Dec 2015, 1:46 pm

I would like to be accepted, and valued, for who I am. Not for who I might be if someone can train, love, medicate, or genetically re-engineer the autism out of me.

I am mature enough, and intelligent enough, to realize that it's easier to "fix" me than to mend the attitudes of every person I encounter. Sad, but true.

Knowing that, I find this idea much more palatable than a chemical lobotomy.

Of course, that doesn't take into account the side-effects that I'm perfectly certain would only be recognized after tens of thousands of lives were irretrievably f****d up.

Or the fact that I do believe a significant percentage of human progress can be attributed to the contributions of a dash of autism (depression, anxiety, ADHD, mania, et cetera).


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15 Dec 2015, 2:30 pm

I'm sorry but I really feel this is a bit sensationalist on the part of the media, fed information from self-promoting researchers and especially, investor dependent biotech firms. The more buzz they can stir up, the more money is invested in their company or research program. Our understanding of genetics is so incredibly basic and blunt that at this point all we can do is insert say, a protein production sequence somewhat randomly into an organism's DNA with the assumption that every cell that it eventually becomes will crank out that protein 24/7 - often along with whatever is coded for by whatever sequences happen to be immediately downstream for that particular insertion. Often this is done by piggy-backing the intended gene sequence on a virus or plasmid /plasmid+liposome and letting it infect the host. Even then, this only works because they can attempt the insertion a vast number of times and weed through until they find the few candidates where it actually worked good enough to market the resulting organism as a profitable product. We can also knock out or excise/disable genes, but again it's a matter of finding the test organisms where the technique worked & breeding them to find out what that particular gene actually *did*. In that respect we are at the level of doctors who would remove or disable an organ or brain site (or study an accident victim) to find out what that site actually did. We are literally still at the Phineas Gage/Mary Rafferty level of knowledge and ability when it comes to gene therapy. Actually using it to successfully eliminate a trait as complex as Autism from a single, single cell fertilized egg is akin to talk of visiting Pluto in the days of Roman chariots. Mentions of using gene therapy to restructure the brain of someone who has already passed the key windows of neural development are a bit like fantasies of being able to build a device to change a Subaru 4-door into a Lamborghini Murcielago at the molecular level, in real-time (the current dream transmogrifier of my younger child).

All that said, it is ethically as reprehensible and indefensible as the somewhat recent work of Dr. Maria New and her use of prenatal Dexamethasone to try to prevent the development of lesbian daughters by blocking androgen receptors during fetal brain development. While the science was likely quite sound, actually doing so was deemed ethically wrong in all respects.


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Varelse
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15 Dec 2015, 4:01 pm

Edenthiel wrote:
I'm sorry but I really feel this is a bit sensationalist on the part of the media, fed information from self-promoting researchers and especially, investor dependent biotech firms. The more buzz they can stir up, the more money is invested in their company or research program.

Yes, this seems likely.



ASPartOfMe
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15 Dec 2015, 4:49 pm

The only difference in whether CRISPO works or not or whether or not these prominent scientists are doing it for eugenic or financial reasons is the nature of the nightmare it will cause if it is allowed to be put into effect.

Eugenics, racism, ableism emerge strong in a time of fear and stress.


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16 Dec 2015, 4:06 pm

Ooon the other hand, CRISPR sounds like a way to go for so many genetic diseases.
Call me pro-eugenics, but I can see no benefit in huntington's disease, or hereditary chronic pancreatitis.

The important thing is to not leave it to monsanto, like we did with all the potential in GM crops.


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Varelse
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16 Dec 2015, 4:29 pm

shlaifu wrote:
Ooon the other hand, CRISPR sounds like a way to go for so many genetic diseases.
Call me pro-eugenics, but I can see no benefit in huntington's disease, or hereditary chronic pancreatitis.

These conditions are positively linked to specific genes, have consistent and predictable outcomes, and do severe, often lethal damage that can be stopped (if not reversed) by changing the expression of those genes, making them excellent candidates for gene therapy. So many developmental, neurological and mental disorders do NOT fit into this criteria at all.

Conditions like MS, Parkinson's, Bi-Polar disorder, autism, and schizophrenia do not have proven simple, causal links to specific genes or genesets at all. In fact, the evidence for a link between genetics and BPD and schizophrenia has recently (and rightfully) been called into question. Also, some of the genes that are linked to disorders have also been linked to certain types of intellectual and artistic ability. It's not clear what would be lost if these were removed from the gene pool or even replaced in an individual at any stage of life.

Also, as has already been pointed out, genetics contribute to a risk of developmental disorders, but once the development has taken place, changing the genes will not have the same effect that replacing them at an earlier stage might have.



ASPartOfMe
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16 Dec 2015, 8:23 pm

shlaifu wrote:
Ooon the other hand, CRISPR sounds like a way to go for so many genetic diseases.
Call me pro-eugenics, but I can see no benefit in huntington's disease, or hereditary chronic pancreatitis.

The important thing is to not leave it to monsanto, like we did with all the potential in GM crops.


That is nice, but focus of CRISPR seems to be us. Eugenics is an attempt to use genes to increase the speed of evolution often by getting rid of people considered "unfit" or "lesser" whom are considered burdens to eugenicists. Getting rid of Huntngtons etc does not really qualify. The developmentally and physically disabled have always been one of the main targerts of eugenicists. And the USA is where it basically started and at one time had widespread mainstream scientific and popular approval.

Eugenics in the United States - Wikipedia


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17 Dec 2015, 12:36 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
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But what might come sooner is the ability to treat or cure diseases in children and adults, perhaps by injecting them with a CRISPR-equipped virus that will be able to correct whatever genetic defect contributes to a given disease.


That sounds very dangerous if they would use that for autism since it seems to affect most parts of the brain. Even if it wasn't, changing the way a person thinks without their consent would be very unethical.



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17 Dec 2015, 3:23 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
That is nice, but focus of CRISPR seems to be us.


This is simply false. CRISPR is a mechanism that certain microorganisms use to help them identify and disable invading viruses. Basically, they keep a library of short gene sequences in their own DNA that they use as lookup table to ID and destroy invaders.

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/ ... technique/

http://www.radiolab.org/story/antibodies-part-1-crispr/

http://www.twiv.tv/2010/03/07/twiv-72-bucket-of-bolts/

http://www.sciencemag.org/site/extra/crispr/

People MAY be able to use it to pursue various engineering projects on the human genome, but it is not a eugenics project and it is not aimed at autism.

Before they can use CRISPR to do anything to modify the genomes of autistic people, they will need to figure out how autism works--not something anyone is currently close to doing.

CRISPR is a fascinating discovery that will open a lot of new understanding for molecular biologists. It's wrong to characterize it as the embodiment of other things that we fear. It is not that.