Search This Blog

Friday, June 17, 2011

Abortion and an "Autism Test"

Back in January, the Deseret News reported:

Against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in the incidence of autism, a Utah company today will formally launch genetic testing and related counseling to help family doctors and pediatricians with early diagnosis of some autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Lineagen's FirstStepDX testing looks for genetic factors known to be associated with ASD and developmental delay, said Michael Paul, president and CEO of the company. He said studies have shown that autism treatment, called "Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention," is effective in children as young as 18 months, so early diagnosis is critical.


Autism's heritability factor is estimated at about 70 percent. Breast cancer heritability is around 30-40 percent, Paul said. Most diseases also have an environmental component. But the strength of that genetic component in autism is why genetic counseling is so important for families, and Paul said that is why Lineagen built it into the test in the report that explains the results, guidance for the local doctor and the ability to talk directly to one of Lineagen's genetic counselors as part of the testing process.

Consumers cannot buy the test directly but must go through a physician. Many insurance policies will cover its cost.

Lineagen also offers an on-line version of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) at , a developmental screening tool for toddlers 16 to 30 months old, and plans to add other free Web tools.

At The Age of Autism, Kevin Barry takes a darker view of the development:

Lineagen, a biotech company based in Utah, is now marketing a blood test which identifies "new genetic variants associated with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders)" . (See Lineagen HERE) At this time, Lineagen positions its product as a post natal early intervention tool - not as a prenatal test. However, with autism rates conservatively affecting one in every 70 boys born today, expecting couples are rightfully concerned about autism. FirstStepDX is an easy, single draw blood test that could be added to routine prenatal OB/GYN appointments.

Lineagen's website explains this simple process of their FirstStepDx blood test:

What does the testing process include?

Lineagen’s FirstStepDx combines two state-of-the-art genetic tests: whole genome chromosome microarray analysis (CMA) and fragile X testing.

Two blood samples are taken from the person undergoing testing and are obtained during a single blood draw. From these samples DNA is extracted, which is then used for genetic testing.

The FirstStepDx test comprises a comprehensive service that includes pre- and post-test genetic counseling and a detailed report delivered in an easy-to-read format, suitable for both physicians and families. Lineagen Our Services HERE

The Lineagen site also describes the test's use of new genetic variants:

Over the past several years, powerful research possibilities have emerged, particularly related to the identification of new genetic variants associated with ASD, MS, and COPD. Furthermore, Lineagen has in-licensed best-in-class genetic research data from notable establishments, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to form the most extensive proprietary data set on ASD in the world. About Lineagen HERE


The NIH Office of Autism Research Coordination proudly displays its work on "genetic risk factors." Some autism non-profit groups, in support of the 2011 Combating Autism Re-authorization Act, put the identification of "several autism susceptibility genes" on the short list of the top reasons to continue supporting millions of dollars of government funded autism research each year.

Blood tests are now available to test for genetic variants associated with autism. Universal Family Church believes it is outrageous that the fruit of past government research have been used to create tools that could be used today for selective abortions - abortions potentially performed based on only a slight probability that a child might develop a disability or disorder.

A couple of items from the comments section:

I just complained to the FDA (you should too) because, while this company is and should be free to market government approved tests for Fragile X to anyone they want, conflating the broad term "autism" with Fragile X appears to me to be highly misleading and unethical. Unlike many here, I support genetic research because I think it'll uncover therapies for SOME subtypes on the spectrum.

Unfortunately, allowing companies like Linagen to make overly broad and misleading claims about autism testing will set back genetic research. The folks at ASAN are going to have a field day with this one.

If they have the DNA of autism families collected and catalogued in a genomic database then they can just screen fetal tissue even embryos against this DNA. So whether or not a child has Fragile X or some other purely genetic condition, as long it as show similar DNA (meaning a risk for autism) to that in the autism genome database then that might frighten new parents enough to abort or select Pre Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

What is PGD?

Who will survive? It'll come down to the fit vs. unfit.

Just makes me sick.