Chinese Genome-Sequencer Leads Autism Research

At Economic Observer, Nick Compton assesses the fruits of a two-year partnership between BGI-Shenzhen and American advocacy group Autism Speaks. Early results suggest that genes may contribute to around half of all cases of autism, about twice as many as previously estimated.

Although there is no cure for autism, researchers have long maintained that effective early intervention, begun as quickly as possible after a diagnoses is reached, is the best way to teach autistic individuals self-help and communication skills that will empower them to live independent, fulfilling lives. “If we find it early, we can do behavior intervention early,” Wang says.

Dr. Andy Shih, vice president of scientific affairs at Autism Speaks, thinks the research underway at BGI is potentially “transformative” in advancing the cause of all genomics.

“The vision here is that some day in the very near future some kind of sequencing will be standard care for children that go to the doctor and there is suspicion of autism or [developmental] delays,” Shih says. “We’re hoping that with the information we can pull from an ambitious program like the one we have at BGI, it will put us firmly on the path to understanding different types or subtypes of autism.”

BGI-Shenzhen, ‘China’s bio-Google‘, has attracted growing media attention in recent months for projects such as an investigation into genetic roots of exceptional intelligence.


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