After listening to the anti-vax crowd shout about Thorsen as proof of conspiracy, I decided to look for the facts. A lot of the news I found was not in English, so it was not an easy task. But I did find one useful statement, so… here’s what we know for sure so far (though I’m sure more details will come out once the investigation is completed):

22nd January, 2010

Statement regarding Dr. Poul Thorsen’s involvement in Aarhus University projects

Aarhus University has decided to issue this statement in response to a num- ber of requests on the part of CDC Denmark project partners.

Issue: The extent and nature of Dr. Poul Thorsen’s continued involvement in the CDC Denmark project for which he once provided primary scientific and administrative oversight, as well as of his continued relation to Aarhus Uni- versity.

Background: The Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation (DASTI) has been a grant recipient as part of a cooperative agreement with the US National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC, since 2001. The grant has been administered by Odense University Hos- pital and Aarhus University (AU) under the direction of Dr. Poul Thorsen. The grant has multiple components and involves collaborators at other insti- tutions in Denmark, including the University of Copenhagen and SSI (Statens Serum Institut). This successful collaboration has resulted in numerous valu- able scientific results, and many more are forthcoming.

Unfortunately, a considerable shortfall in funding at Aarhus University asso- ciated with the CDC grant was discovered. In investigating the shortfalls asso- ciated with the grant, DASTI and Aarhus University became aware of two al- leged CDC funding documents as well as a letter regarding funding commit- ments allegedly written by Randolph B. Williams of CDC’s Procurement Grants Office which was used to secure advances from Aarhus University. Upon investigation by CDC, a suspicion arose that the documents are forger- ies.

DASTI conducted an internal investigation of the authenticity of the docu- ments and have filed a police report with no specific person named in the fil- ing. A police investigation is ongoing.

In March 2009, Dr. Thorsen resigned his faculty position at Aarhus Univer- sity. In the meantime, it has come to the attention of Aarhus University that Dr Thomsen has continued to act in such a manner as to create the impres- sion that he still retains a connection to Aarhus University after the termina- tion of his employment by the university. Furthermore, it has come to the at- tention of Aarhus University that Dr Poul Thorsen has held full-time positions at both Emory University and Aarhus University simultaneously. Dr Thorsens double Full-time employment was unauthorised by Aarhus University, and he engaged in this employment situation despite the express prohibition of Aar- hus University.

Conclusion: Aarhus University wishes to confirm that Dr Poul Thorsen no longer has any connection to Aarhus University, and that Aarhus University will not be able to collaborate with Poul Thorsen in the future. To the extent that other parties collaborating with Aarhus University wish to draw on Poul Thorsen’s expertise, Aarhus University will only accept such collaboration if it has the purpose of securing data or protecting the interests of participating researchers and funding agencies.

Jørgen Jørgensen

Managing Director

“We can talk about treatments, accommodations, services, education, even identifying genetic markers… but a cure? I doubt we will find this. Especially not for people who are already autistic”

Actually, I have much more hope about this than I did a year ago. There’ve been studies coming out where mice with the known Rett Syndrome mutation have grown to adulthood expressing all the typical Rett symptoms and have then had that mutation removed (through a genetically engineered means that would not be possible in humans, unfortunately). Once the mutation was removed, the mice were indistinguishable from their neurotypical kin. I believe a similar thing has been done with FragileX.

I know these are specific types of autism caused by single genes (and yes, it has only been shown in mice, but that’s what animal models are for) but, the bottom line is that it means we can speak in terms of a “cure” rather than just “treatment” or “prevention”. This may not be true in all cases of autism, and will be a challenge to implement, but there is hope.

Also, note that I used the word “disorder”. I just have to say that I withhold judgement for Asperger’s and high-functioning autism (and maybe even lower functioning, based on what I’ve read here) however, in the case of Rett, I’d even be willing to call it a disease. These girls are usually SEVERELY impaired, have a shortened lifespan, and rarely have children. That’s basically the definition of a disease.
More on Barack Obama
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Well, it’s April once again – Autism Awareness Month as it was when I decided to begin this blog. The next 30 days are sure to be full of a great deal of exciting news in the autism world, as well as many heated battles as I beat back pseudoscience in the field one blog post at a time.

For today though, there will be no battles, just one piece of very exciting news I have to share. Yours truly has been awarded an IMFAR travel grant by the Autism Science Foundation. This means that, thanks to the kind people at the ASF and despite my status as a poor graduate student, I will be able to attend what I have always thought of as the most reputable autism science conference of the year (certainly better than the Autism One conference scheduled to take place the week before… oops, I said no battles today). The conference will take place May 20th-22nd in Philadelphia, and I am totally over the moon about it. Of course, a condition of my receiving the ASF grant was that I share what I learn there with all of you, so be prepared for some cutting-edge research discussion here at the end of May.

~ Esa

AOL health posted an excellent pair of interviews, entitled  “Autism Experts on Causes, Cures and Controversies”, earlier this month. In it, we get the perspectives of Dr. Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets and board member of the Autism Science Foundation, and Dr. Geri Dawson, chief medical officer of Autism Speaks on a range of autism-related topics. The two doctors represent the different views of their respective organizations quite well and I see merit in the answers of each. I encourage you to access the article here.

Esa, on Rebirth

March 26, 2010

This feels a bit like walking into a confessional and preparing to utter “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned”. Interesting that I should feel trepidation and associate it with this, as I have not been to confession since the sacrament was required of me by my family, at an age before I could fully comprehend it. Nonetheless, though I have counted myself an atheist (or something akin to one) for nearly a decade, the old Catholic guilt lives on.

And so I ask: Forgive me reader, for I have failed you. It has been nearly nine months since my last post. My promise to chronicle the graduate school experience has failed in a big way, as I have neglected to share the all-important beginning. But soon that beginning comes to a close, classes and lab rotations end, and my blogging begins anew. Much has changed since I last wrote here, and I look forward to sharing my experiences of the past school year with you in the weeks and months ahead.

Fondly,

Esa

The following post is a philosophy paper I wrote in my freshmen year of college discussing possible arguments for and against the existence of God. I post it here now after an interesting discussion over on the SBM blog in hopes that the off-topic conversation over there may continue here. I know reasoning in this paper is not iron-clad by any means, and I do not necessarily believe absolutely everything I wrote any longer, so feel free to tear it apart… I may do so myself in a future post. Enjoy!

~Esa

Read the rest of this entry »

A bit of a personal post today…

So, as you may have gleaned from my previous post, I have only just started working at my graduate institution. My program is part of a larger medical school which, in turn, is only one of many medical schools and hospitals in the area. I have lived in major cities before, but this new place is particularly daunting. There are people of all different backgrounds, speaking numerous languages. There are doctors, nurses, students, administrators, scientists, volunteers, patients, visitors… the list goes on and on. I can’t help but reflect on how there must be a certain camaraderie among those around me. All of them are working toward the same goal of improving human health – and this is a brotherhood I am now a part of. However, I still feel like nothing more than a face in the crowd, on the outside looking in, so to speak. I don’t like to think of myself as a shy person and, to be honest, I probably have more self confidence than is normal, but this is a challenge like I’ve never faced. Classes haven’t started yet, and everyone in my lab is in a completely different stage of life than I am and knows I will be here for only a few short weeks before school begins, so making new friends has proven to be difficult.

Here’s where the irony comes in… Read the rest of this entry »

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