Two new studies, both announced today, point away from vaccines and toward genetic anomalies as potential causes of autism.
The first study, conducted by the CDC and announced through Reuters, was specifically focused on the question of whether children exposed to mercury in utero or through vaccines are more likely than other children to develop autism spectrum disorders. The answer, according to the study, is a definitive "no:" "It shows kids who had been exposed as babies to high levels of the preservative -- through vaccines they received or their mothers received while pregnant -- were no more likely to develop autism, including two distinct subtypes of the condition." In fact, an unexplained data point suggests that children who received mercury-bearing vaccines were actually LESS likely than others to develop autism.
The second study, conducted by an international team of researchers, describes a genetically-linked "misfold" in neural protein as a possible cause of autism. According to Newswise: "...misfolding of a protein called neuroligin-3, due to gene mutations, results in trafficking deficiencies that may lead to abnormal communications between neurons. Genetic misfolding of neuroligins is thought to prevent normal formation and function of neuronal synapses. The gene mutation has been documented in patients with autism." This study, which relates to earlier research into brain proteins, is interesting - but may not be of any immediate practical use to families. Says one researcher: "We may be able to find a treatment to fix a cell in culture, but to rescue function in vivo may not be feasible with the same strategy."