“Hi, Jakob 1. I’m Jake,” says Jake Litvag. The energetic 16-year-old has named a furry lab creature after him. The mouse has the same genetic abnormality Jake has. Scientists hope to discover ways to treat Jake’s rare disorder—and solve the larger puzzle of autism.
God made every human unique. He numbers every hair on every head and understands every cell in the body. (Luke 12:7) He also made humans to yearn for knowledge about diseases and disorders. Many want to use what they learn in mercy to help fellow image bearers.
Jake’s parents, Joe and Lisa Litvag, realized early on that Jake wasn’t reaching childhood milestones. He couldn’t walk without assistance until he was four. He struggled to string sentences together in first grade.
At first, no one understood why. Jake was restless and impulsive but also social, warm, and funny. It took until he was age five to get a firm diagnosis of autism.
Dr. John Constantino, an autism genetics expert, began seeing Jake as a patient. He proposed genetic testing. Tests revealed a missing copy of the MYT1L gene—the one believed to cause some autism cases.
Eventually, the Litvags agreed to let Constantino use Jake’s blood for research. So scientists grew stem cells engineered from Jake’s blood. They wanted to mimic Jake’s condition in mice. Jakob 1 and other lab mice are the first in the world to mirror the condition with the missing gene that causes Jake’s specific type of autism.
Since starting their research about three years ago, scientists have bred around 100 mice with Jake’s mutation. They’re now using the great-great grandchildren of the first rodent they engineered.
Scientists hope data from Jakob 1 and his mousy friends could someday lead to medicines or gene therapies to help people with all forms of autism.
Jake knows he inspired the work. That helps him see autism as something to be proud of rather than something that makes him different.
On a trip to the animal lab, Lisa Litvag tears up knowing that her son’s cells could help other kids.
After meeting the mice, the family visits another lab. Jake peers through a microscope at his blue-stained stem cells.
“That’s me! That’s cool stuff. I never saw anything like that in my life,” he says.
“What do we live this life for?” asks Joe Litvag. “It’s ultimately to try to, in one way, shape, or form, be of service to others.”
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. — Philippians 2:4
Why? God’s hand is displayed in every aspect of life—even those we find difficult to accept—and He promises that He works all things for good.
Interesting. I wonder what will become of this. My sister has autism too.
I hope they can find a cure for autism! My cousin has it, also.
I thought that this was cool as well, especially because I have high-functioning autism.
To be completely honest, I wish they would not find a cure for autism. Alright, hear me out. Autism makes people different; it does not make them defective or anything like that. (I'm not saying you implied that.) I can understand how some people would want a cure for low-functioning autism, but definitely not for those with high-functioning. The term "low-functioning" and "high-functioning" refers to their prowess with social skills. People with "low-functioning" autism are those who you mostly likely think of as the most disable. But those with "high functioning" autism just means that they CAN have social troubles, but they're just different. Take me for example. I'm horrible at picking up if when someone tells me to stop they actually want me to stop, but I'm a really fast reader and can memorize stuff easily. That's just who I am. And again, Abigail, I don't blame you for saying, but this is just to say that whether you mean to or not, not all people with autism are lumped into the same category of disability.
That's pretty weird.
I agree. I think it depends on what kind of autism as well. (my sister has severe autism)
I didn't know animals could have autism, too. :O
Some of my friends Have
Some of my friends Have autism and cant really do anything. Its sad he was mistreated as a baby.
Autism can be difficult for
Autism can be difficult for people so I see why they want to find a cure
@Ranen H, you are exactly correct
I agree completely with you. Autism isn't life-threatening, and people with autism tend to have amazing personalities. I know a few, a very few, so this isn't a great sample, honestly, autistic people and people who have things like ADHD (I'm not saying people with ADHD are the exact same as autistic people, but there are a few similarities), but I don't think my friends and family would be the same without having ADHD or autism. I don't think my family would be as creative, vibrant, funny, and interesting without. Some of my friends from church have autism too, and I know that they are perfect as they are. Some people think that autistic and 'mentally disabled' people need to be cured, but I don't at all. And disabled is the wrong word anyway.
But I think this article is very interesting. Again, I don't think that autism needs to be cured, but if they used experiments like this one to help study how and learn how to better understand the different ways that some autistic people feel, in ways that are different from neurotypical people, then that would be really awesome.
@Mirela, there isn't really a 'type' of autism. It's a spectrum, like colors. there's not one or two or even ten ways to be autistic. Every single autistic person I have met, from classmates to church friends, process info differently, like different things, and they are all unique people.
I'm not going to pretend I know half the things about this that I should, but I think this article is wrong.
If I said something incorrect
If I said something incorrect or hurtful, please let me know.