Thank you so much for this post. It is so important for parents to be informed about this topic. I worked for years with children with ASD and almost all of their parents firmly believed vaccinations caused the disorder. Also, I know several new parents that are seriously considering skipping vaccinations for their child for fear they will develop Autism. Parents need to make informed decisions based on more than just what celebrity claim.
Thank You for pointing out the blatent lack of evidence that there is any causal link between vaccines and autism. There are so many parents out there that believe the risk of vaccines now outweigh the benefits, when any valid research can offer unlimited support for the benefits and only limited, anecdotal evidence of the risks. I fear we will soon be living in a society in which we lose children to childhood diseases that have a proven and available vaccine. Hollywood has already negatively impacted our childrens exposure to violence and sexism, so lets not let Hollywood expose our children to preventable physical diseases as well.
Because if there were no connection, then removing the mercury from tissues (chelation therapy) would not be helping my daughter as much as it is.
Well said...the research is by no means conclusive that autism is caused by vaccines. More research definitely needs to be done as the rates of children diagnosed with autism continue to increase rapidly. I do believe parents need to do their own research and decide whether to space out their children's vaccinations or not. There is a really great discussion of this topic at www.opposingviews.com/questions/are-autism-and-vaccines-linked Several experts from both sides debate the issue, and there is a guy named Kevin Leitch who is really stirring things up by taking on the groups who believe autism and vaccines are linked. Excellent read on the subject!
About mercury and autism.
My understanding about autism is that the symptoms that we call autism are the result of excessive brain plasticity, and that the reason for the ongoing brain plasticity is that there is ongoing damage to the brain, it could be bacterial, viral, chemical, but the end result is immune activation and inflammation to fight the infection/toxin, and then brain plasticity is activated to repair the damage. There is a defect in the immune system, so the infection is never fully defeated, so the battle is ongoing, and the brain remains in a state of plasticity.
About the defect in the immune system.
"Normally when a virus infects a cell, an enzyme called Ribonulease L (RNase L) is activated and cuts the RNA of the infectious agent so it cannot replicate itself. The RNase L molecule also cuts the RNA of the infected cell, which triggers the cell’s death and removal. Then the RNase L molecule “switches off” and remains inactive so that it doesn’t damage healthy cells."
But, in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, this doesn't happen, instead "the RNase L molecule is being cut and weighs 37 kDa - less than half its normal weight. The damaged RNase L molecule is not able to kill infectious agents and it keeps damaged cells alive."
Result is chronic dysfunction of the immune system.
The relevance to mercury?
"One of the RNase L fragments has a structure that is almost identical to a protein involved in the removal of heavy metals and toxic chemical from cells. When this protein is blocked by the RNase L fragments, the cells become more sensitive to mercury. Now a tiny amount of mercury that would normally kill 10% of the cells can kill 50 to 100% of the cells."
If the immune defect in autism is similar to the immune defect in CFS, perhaps that would explain the sensitivity to mercury in some cases of autism. The quoted parts are the work of Dr Kenny De Meirleir.
As a scientist I have often found that if you want to find evidence to support any theory, you will find it. But one needs to remain open minded. As you mentioned, if mercury plays a role in ASD, it is likely not the mercury itself, but that there is an dysfunction in the immune system response that leads to mercury having a deliterious effect on the child. The question then becomes how does the immune system become dysfunctional? There are some very interesting theories along these lines that involve the gene coding for MHC-Class I proteins such as HLA which play a large role not only in neuroplasticity (what I am interested in as it relates to the development of brain circuits), but also the immune system. I am aware that indivdiuals with ASD have increased rates of disorders affecting the immune system such as Crohn's Disease and other gastrointestinal issues. I am not aware of an increased risk fo CFS, though I would be interested in looking into it.
It is always important to take every piece of "evidence" critically and evaluate it thoroughly and remember that the Truth with a capital T is that we do not have an answer, but that with every theory we come ever closer to understanding the mystery that is Autism.
About HLA, I just read this "In a targeted genetic analysis, Judy Mikovits, PhD of the Whittemore Peterson Institute, found that variations in HLA and KIR genes – genes important in a proper immune response – might increase the risk for CFS." So will be interesting to see where it all leads.
I am not aware of an increased risk of getting CFS for individuals with ASD (although I personally have both), but last I heard Dr De Meirleir said that he had noticed that women with CFS seemed to have a much higher risk of having autistic children, like 4 times as much as normal. He has seen thousands of CFS patients. I think he was planning to collect data formally on rate of CFS mothers with autistic children, but I don't know whether he ever did.
I know there is a researcher who from what I can tell seems to be saying that autism and CFS might be very similar, but the age you recieve the insult determines which illness you get. I am probably misrepresenting him, but I can tell you his name, I think he is a biochem PHD, not sure though. He is Richard Van Konynenburg.
If he is right I wonder if I received more than one insult given that I have both ASD and CFS.
Actually I know there is a Dr Michael Goldberg who says CFS and ASD are linked, but I don't know if he thinks it is for the same reason as Richard Van Konynenburg.
I think I understand what you are saying. Sometimes we know certain things help, but we don't know why they help, and it's hard to avoid making assumptions which could later turn out to be false, but you have to avoid doing it because otherwise you might build more things on top of false assumptions. IYSWIM, I didn't write that very well.
About the child with underlying mitochondrial disorder, don't know if remotely relevant but reminds me of this about CFS and mitochondrial dysfunction http://www.ijcem.com/files/IJCEM812001.pdf I think it was presented at the latest IACFSME conference. (The ME part is the non-USA name, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, for any Americans wondering.)
Lindsay M. Oberman, Ph.D. is a cognitive neuroscientist studying autism spectrum disorders.