Receiving a flu shot while pregnant will not put a child at risk of later being diagnosed with autism. A new study published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics concluded that there is no link that finds the children of women who catch the flu while pregnant or receive a flu shot during pregnancy are later diagnosed with autism. The study pulled medical records from 196,929 children all born at the same Northern California hospital, Kaiser Permanente facilities, between 2000 and 2010. Of those, 3,101 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, NPR reported. Although there was no direct link found in mothers who had the flu while pregnant and their child being diagnosed with autism, there was a slight increased risk for mothers who received a flu vaccine during their first trimester.
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive. To learn more about how cells go awry causing disease, it seems logical to focus on the minutiae of a cell's molecular components: the specific genes, proteins, and small molecules that change over time leading to a disease state. Instead, Ernest Fraenkel, MIT associate professor in the Department of Biologic Engineering, first takes a macro view for finding new ways to understand and cure diseases. "When you are faced with making any sense of the 10,000 or 20,000 molecules that are present within a cell and evolve during disease, you need an entirely new approach to figure out what is really important among all the changes you see," Fraenkel explains. He develops computational and laboratory experimental methods to uncover the molecular pathways that go awry in disease and search for new strategies and intervention targets.
I'd say that 15 years is more than enough time for a truly powerful advance to make an impact. The first scientific vaccines were developed in the 1880s. Let's note that none of these discoveries and treatments are for niche diseases. Infectious diseases were the leading killers in every country until the mid-20th century. Heart disease has now taken its place, and diabetes is not far behind.
An artist's impression of the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe, which aims to be the first to land on a comet. Several research groups, including a team led by geneticist Erika Sasaki and stem-cell biologist Hideyuki Okano at Keio University in Tokyo, hope to create transgenic primates with immune-system deficiencies or brain disorders. This could raise ethical concerns, but might bring us closer to therapies that are relevant to humans (mice can be poor models for such disorders). The work will probably make use of a gene-editing method called CRISPR, which saw rapid take-up last year. The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft could become the first mission to land a probe on a comet.