The Temple Grandin Genome: Comprehensive Analysis in a Scientist with High-Functioning Autism

J Pers Med. 2020 Dec 29;11(1):21. doi: 10.3390/jpm11010021.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous condition with a complex genetic etiology. The objective of this study is to identify the complex genetic factors that underlie the ASD phenotype and other clinical features of Professor Temple Grandin, an animal scientist and woman with high-functioning ASD. Identifying the underlying genetic cause for ASD can impact medical management, personalize services and treatment, and uncover other medical risks that are associated with the genetic diagnosis. Prof. Grandin underwent chromosomal microarray analysis, whole exome sequencing, and whole genome sequencing, as well as a comprehensive clinical and family history intake. The raw data were analyzed in order to identify possible genotype-phenotype correlations. Genetic testing identified variants in three genes (SHANK2, ALX1, and RELN) that are candidate risk factors for ASD. We identified variants in MEFV and WNT10A, reported to be disease-associated in previous studies, which are likely to contribute to some of her additional clinical features. Moreover, candidate variants in genes encoding metabolic enzymes and transporters were identified, some of which suggest potential therapies. This case report describes the genomic findings in Prof. Grandin and it serves as an example to discuss state-of-the-art clinical diagnostics for individuals with ASD, as well as the medical, logistical, and economic hurdles that are involved in clinical genetic testing for an individual on the autism spectrum.

Keywords: Temple Grandin; autism spectrum disorder; chromosomal microarray analysis; clinical utility; genetic testing; polygenic risk scores; whole exome sequencing; whole genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Case Reports