Dr. Manny: Scientists Say Autism Has a Genetic Component – and I Agree


After looking at the latest three studies led by researchers from Yale, Columbia and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, I have to believe, based on their data, that the genetic link that they have found in regards to autism is real and that it could lead to much more knowledge in the field and treatment of the disorder.

To me, one of the greatest puzzlements of autism is the high degree of spontaneity that it has among families. As you all know, I deliver babies for a living, and also run one of the largest obstetrical units in country, so I get a lot of feedback from families whose children were delivered with autism.

Whether it’s a vaginal delivery or a cesarean section, whether the father is young or old, whether the doctor uses general anesthesia or epidural anesthesia, or any other medical or lifestyle factor that could come into play, there never was a direct link to autism to be found in our experience.

And clearly, looking at the literature that has been published in the past in regards to autism, many of the factors that have typically been blamed for its development were never backed with any significant proof.

But when you look at a family that delivers twins, and one is autistic and the other is not, as a scientist, I have to believe there is a genetic component to the problem.

The studies, published in the journal Neuron, appear to have proven as much. The researchers examined the genomes of more than 1,000 families in which one child was autistic and the siblings and parents were not. Their findings confirmed a growing body of evidence that autism can be caused by a random genetic mutation that could occur at any one of hundreds of different sites in the human genome.

On behalf of my son, who was born with autism, and my family, I just want to congratulate the men and women who spent years working on this research. My hope is that the basic foundation of autism knowledge will continue to grow and provide relief to families who live with and who are affected by this disorder.