Monday, June 27, 2005

Amish Genes Can Be Blue

Being that I used to live among the Amish (sort of), I found this article interesting. My students always find genetic studies of the Amish, Ashkenazi Jews, etc. interesting. They provide really good models for teaching about recessive genes, inbreeding depression, genetic mutations, and disease inheritance. I've always been impressed with how willing most Amish communities are to participate in medical and scientific research. On top of that, it gives me reason to go back and practice my PA dutch and get a little shoo-fly pie and funnel cake.

10 Comments:

At 8:39 PM, Blogger trisha said...

I read that the Amish have no autism.

 
At 7:37 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Amish are also allow themselves to be used social experimentation on reality TV. Maybe they think they're God's chosen lab animals.

 
At 7:51 AM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

Yeah, that's a tricky one.

There are a lower number of reported cases of autism in Amish populations. Proponents of the vaccine-theory of autism have jumped on this observation since the Amish do not usually vaccinate their children.

As far as I can tell, however, an exhaustive study has not been done in these populations. It's thus hard to tell if the rates truly are lower or if it is a problem of diagnoses. Due to language impairments, we used to diagnose populations of autistic individuals as "retarded"--this could still be going on in Amish communities since they do not generally take their children to specialists. Family doctors usually have inadequate training in psychiatry and neurology so this is a possible confound.

It is also possible that the low rates of autism may be influenced by the interesting genetic dynamics in amish populations. We always think of inbreeding as a bad thing as it promotes many diseases, including psychological ones such as bipolar disorder. It is possible, however, that inbreeding may have kept autism suceptibility genes out of the population. It's really hard to tell.

I'm glad you brought this up, Trisha. I actually wasn't informed on this topic until you mentioned it and I love learning about new things. You should be a neuroscientist--you would be really good at it.

 
At 8:06 AM, Blogger NewYorkerGrrrl said...

I was the example in my high school biology class od a dominant trait that acts recessive - the crooked pinky.

True or false?

 
At 12:15 PM, Blogger trisha said...

I posted this article in my sideblog May 12th--

Why Don't the Amish Have Autistic Children?

See? I am really interesting.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger trisha said...

Oh, and thanks! I was never encouraged to pursue my love of science. My mom wanted a cheerleader.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Not genetically related but - have you ever seen Devil's Playground about the Amish Rumspringa.

 
At 2:42 PM, Blogger she falters to rise said...

No, I heard about it, but I never got a chance to see it. I've heard, though, that most Amish people go back to their community after Rumspring. That kind of surprised me since I'm not the kind of person to go back to traditional ways once I've been exposed to new things. Was it good?

 
At 8:47 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

It's a so-so documentary...as a parent of a teenager, I found it interesting as it seems to suggest these kids go crazy because of being so incredibly limited and sheltered until they are 16. One kid notes, "English children start experimenting with clothes, hair, and music when they are 13. We do not get that freedom until we turn 16 so we have three years to plan our Rumspringa."

You are correct regarding their return to the Amish community - they have one of the highest retention rates ever...like 90% or something.

 
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