‘A new study is offering a clue into the origins of the disorder by finding a single dysfunctional protein may be responsible for coordinating expression in all the genes that result in autism susceptibility.’
I took that quote from an article on autism research published by New Atlas. I strongly recommend reading the entire article but the gist is that:
- Researchers have found hundreds of genes implicated in the Autism Disorder spectrum, not just one ‘master’ gene.
- These genes are like switches that can be turned on or off.
- While these genes are ‘off’, the person may have a tendency towards autism, but they will not be autistic – i.e. there will be no symptoms of autism.
- There is a protein called CPEB4 which ‘…is vital in embryonic development, assisting with neuroplasticity and helping regulate the expression of certain genes during fetal brain development.’ In other words, this is a good protein.
- In mouse models, not enough of this protein leads to brain structures and behaviours that are characteristic of autism. In other words, the lack of this protein causes those autism-related genes to be switched on and the result is Autism-like behaviour.
Now, mouse models are just an approximation of the human condition, but they do lend support to the idea that autism is not just a genetic condition/disorder. Instead, it may well be a case of environment acting on an underlying pre-disposition. And if that is the case, then maybe one day we’ll be able to keep those Autism related genes switched off.
Have a great weekend,
Happy Birthday Arrakis! And apologies for the huge picture. It’s a photo of the front cover of my copy of Dune, and I wanted you to see the loving wear and tear on this precious, 1975 version.
I first read Dune in 1971 or ’72, when I borrowed it from a university friend, but as you can see, I have re-read it many times since. Not only is story just as compelling as it was all those years ago, it also brings to light something new with each re-reading. I guess it’s time to re-read Dune again because I was not consciously aware of its environmental credentials. Oh I knew and loved the whole desert environment and the small scale terraforming the inhabitants were attempting, but it was not until I read this commemorative article in Flavourwire this morning that I realised Dune’s connection to Silent Spring:
I highly recommend reading the article as it points out some rather interesting facts, facts I have never known, such as:
- Fact 1, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962.
- Fact 2, Silent Spring was instrumental in the banning of DDT, but it did not touch the awareness of the masses in the way that Dune did.
Published just three years after Silent Spring in 1965, Dune has been re-printed many times. It has also spawned more than one movie version, all of which have kept the level of public awareness ticking along for 50 years. In fact, I personally know of one, highly popular group on Goodreads that is dedicated to discussions about Dune.
Nevertheless, I believe Dune’s greatest contribution to environmental awareness has come about indirectly, via the novels and movies that owe some part of their creation to the concepts popularized by Frank Herbert’s master work.
Novels have power. Great novels change the world. I wish Frank Herbert were still around to see the fruits of his labours. Or maybe not. I fear he might be disappointed.
I’ve been a fan of Kathryn Treat’s book ‘Allergic to my Life’ since it first came out – I literally could not put it down. And now I’ve been touched all over again by the trailer for the book. Filled with lovely family photos, the trailer is like a snapshot of Kathryn’s life, before and now.
If you like the trailer please vote for it, and Kathryn’s blog, right here.