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

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“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

First, I will warn you: this post has nothing to do with graduate school or science. Second, I’m sorry I have been neglecting my blogging duties. I actually just had my college graduation last week and have been packing to move off to graduate school. (Fine, you caught me, I wasn’t officially a graduate student when starting this blog – but I will be in a matter of weeks! Woohoo!)

So… Rush Limbaugh…

Read the rest of this entry »

Keep your eye out for the last three parts in this series:

Part III: Mercury Rising

Part IV: Generation Rescue or Down the Rabbit Hole

Part V: Minerva Victorious

The next morning they wake to a man who claims
That those in the tower made their children that way.
And, though he, himself, is ivory-built,
Some parents believe he is free from all guilt.
They rush at the tower again, this time armed,
With the limited study, with which they were charmed
By this man who has made them a part of his game,
For he has much to gain if they bring about change.

Those in the tower took the small study in stride,
But spoke to the fear in these parents’ eyes:
“Although we don’t think there is cause for concern,
We will do our own studies so you may be assured.”
Perform studies, they did, and of a grand scale,
Each refuted the first, but to no avail.
The damage was done; the world had lost trust,
Claiming these findings were clouded by lust
For the money that some thought there was to be gained
By backing the companies that cause children pain.
Talk of conspiracy rang from the tops of the trees:
“It is a conflict of interest to put parents at ease
When companies lobby the state, which provides
Funding to science to feed the public its lies.”

The man was a hero for rousing parents to action.
Then the papers uncovered what had really happened.
Lawyers had funded his research, you see,
In an effort to sue those big companies,
And now the man, of whom everyone spoke,
May be facing having his license revoked.
Yet, somehow, these parent-warriors don’t mind –
Any study is perfect if they like what it finds.

Creative Commons License
Autism Awareness by Esattezza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

It’s April, and I turn the news on:
There’s an ivory tower in the Amazon.
Those inside have angered the warriors
By concluding their children are not of the stars.
“How dare you?!” the warriors reply.
“My little boy’s perfect in my eyes.”
The tower goes silent. What can it say?
It deals in evidence, not emotion or faith.
So the women disperse, feeling they’d won,
And return home to their daughters and sons.

*****

These children really are different, in fact,
Throwing the families’ lives out of whack.
This one does not speak, another just screams.
When things are changed, they come apart at the seams.
Some don’t like to be touched, others hardly feel pain.
Many can’t stand sounds like a bell, or the rain.
When these troubled parents finally sleep
Dreams of their children’s recovery run deep

Creative Commons License
Autism Awareness by Esattezza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.