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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Twitter dispatches from the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting

by  /  24 October 2021
Many mouths making conversation, with speech bubbles in red and blue.
Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Hello, and welcome to Spectrum’s Community Newsletter. In this edition, we’re coming to you with social media musings from #ASHG21, which took place virtually (again) last week — something several attendees lamented online.

According to Twitter chatter, the posters were particularly problematic. For one thing, the sessions offered no way to video chat spontaneously with presenters — a serious shortcoming, said Gholson Lyon of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. “Seems like a no-brainer to do this!”

Others struggled to even tune in. “Am I dumb?” asked Clement Chow, associate professor of human genetics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. People tweeting him breadcrumbs to the sessions commiserated, noting that the navigation was “painful,” the search function didn’t work, and they seemed trapped in an endless loop of clicking between sites.

John Belmont, adjunct professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, held nothing back in a tweet about the virtual assistant chatbot.

And the lack of easy interaction with colleagues disappointed Tuuli Lappalainen, associate professor of systems biology at Colombia University. “For me, conferences are less about the specific scientific content and more about connecting with people,” she tweeted.

At least for conference attendees who missed the chance to sightsee in Montreal, Canada, where the meeting was originally slated to take place, genetic epidemiologist Marie-Julie Favé of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research had them covered.

The meeting’s scientific content didn’t disappoint. Spectrum covered some autism-specific findings, including unpublished results from two independent teams on the divergent effects of autism-linked genes on cognition and contributions to the condition coming from noncoding regions of the genome.

Jack Kosmicki, a statistician at Regeneron Genetics Center in Tarrytown, New York, lauded his team’s study, published on 18 October in Nature, that sequenced the exomes of 454,787 U.K. Biobank participants — and, unlike much previous work, analyzed all of the ancestries represented, not just the European ones.

Collaborator and Regeneron scientist Veera Rajagopal wrote a thread offering up “four key insights” from the “landmark achievement.”

Don’t forget to register for our 28 October webinar, featuring Zachary J. Williams, a medical and doctoral student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who will speak about measuring alexithymia in autistic people.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected]. See you next week!

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