Saturday, March 17, 2007

Clinic Notes: Autism Questions Redux

When people find out that I have a clinic for children with autism the first question they usually ask me," Is autism increasing?" And the second question is usually, " What cause autism?" I can throw our some stats and research findings, but, unfortunately, I can't answer either question with any degree of certainty. And I can't do much better on the third question: "Does the mercury in vaccinations really cause autism?" I simply say this question is hotly debated and I am undecided myself at this point. A recent article, (Regressive Autism: Putting Together the Pieces By Michael Wagnitz
makes a strong argument for mercury. He cites data from first baby haircuts that find children with autism have seven time higher levels of mercury than normal children. Wagnitz also cites data which finds that monkey brains dosed with mercury have cellular changes which are already known to cause neurodegeneration and these cellular changes are found in autopsies of brains of children previously diagnosed with autism. In the future perhaps I can give better answers


jypsy said...

You might be interested in these two pieces then - A Hot Cup of Jack Squat - "In a co-written article, we’ll examine claims about a hypothetical ”link” between mercury in vaccines, and autism." and the follow up Wagnitz Pours A Second Cup "Last month, we co-wrote about an opinion piece by Michael Wagnitz. We were critical of assertions, and an apparently liberal interpretation of what conclusions can be drawn from the research he mentioned. Mr. Wagnitz was kind enough to drop by in the comments of that post and clarify his position, part of which, to many, might look a little less than scientific:

"I do not believe thimerosal causes autism. I believe thimerosal causes neuroinflammatory disesase, gastrointestinal injury and autoimmune problems. My only connection to autism is that my daughter has been labeled as such so they can refuse paying for proper medical care and instead push dangerous anti-psychotic drugs on her. Autism, for 90% of cases, is nothing but a word used to cover-up the damage done by thimerosal to millions of kids."

Well, Mr. Wagnitz appears to have written again - this time, in an article featured in an online magazine, American Chronicle. He has added some references this time around, which is a good thing, but are the implications of his writing supported by the science? Let’s have a look."

Anonymous said...

Please read some of my research of the research on a segment of sporadic autism that is related to having a father who was 33 and older at the time of one"s birth. The Copy Number Variations in the cells of some autistic children probably come from mutations that could be found in the spermatagonia if one looked there with the micro assays used at CSHL etc. Fathers who are older have more broken DNA and more alkali labile sites. They have also been exposed to more toxins for a longer time. Even more than 3 cups of coffee per day can damage sperm DNA. Many disorders of genetic origin including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, lupus, diabetes 1, MS are more common in the non-familial for in the daughters of older fathers. The sons too have genetic disorders at a later age than daughter in some case and also if their mother was a daughter of an older father. This may explain the excess of male with autism. But I don't think anyone is studying this factor.

It is rather critical that all of us who care study the research on the male biological clock. No one is going to tell us from the government or the industries that profit from chronic impairments.

This news of paternal age and human genetic disease is not new.

It was first written about in 1955 by Lionel Penrose.

"It makes sense that the mutations causing these diseases would occur more frequently in older men, and indeed that's what we saw for Apert syndrome," says Ethylin Jabs, M.D., director of the Center for Craniofacial Development and Disorders at Johns Hopkins.

Importantly, disorders linked to advancing paternal age begin to increase rapidly at about the same time as maternal risks increase -- age 33 to 35. Until now, the only evidence for paternal age effects has come from determining how many children with these diseases are born to fathers of various ages.

To obtain the first genetic explanation for these effects, the scientists studied sperm from about 60 men of various ages and looked for two genetic changes responsible for 99 percent of the cases of Apert syndrome. They found that men over 50 were, on average, three times as likely as men under 30 to have sperm with at least one of these changes. The mutations were not more common in blood samples as men aged.

The scientists say it's likely that the number of cell divisions that go into making a sperm plays a large role in the link between Apert syndrome and paternal age, and represents a fundamental difference between how aging egg and sperm can impact the health of a child.

"In the men we studied, these mutations had not been inherited, but rather collected over time in the reservoir of primitive cells that become sperm," says first author Rivka Glaser, a graduate student in human genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Cells that mature into eggs are essentially frozen in time from puberty until the time the egg is signaled to develop. Because of the stage at which they are "frozen," the most likely error in an egg is to have an abnormal partitioning of chromosomes, producing an egg with an extra copy or a missing copy, Glaser says. For example, in Down syndrome, an extra copy of chromosome 21 is inherited from the mother.

Sperm, on the other hand, are continually produced throughout a male's lifetime from a reservoir of primitive cells. These primitive cells, like other kinds of so-called stem cells, can either replicate themselves or take a step closer to becoming a sperm, a process called differentiation. All told, these cells divide every 21 days after puberty, and at each cell division the opportunity exists for an error in copying the DNA.

"Literally hundreds of millions of sperm are made in each batch, so in most cases there are still many normal sperm available," says Jabs, also a professor of pediatrics. Their study showed that "high levels" of mutations among men who had no children with Apert syndrome amounted to roughly 3 sperm with the mutation among 100,000 sperm.

If an error is made in any of the steps toward becoming a sperm, the only cells affected are the resulting sperm for that batch. However, if an error appears in a primitive cell as it replicates itself and the mistake isn't fixed, the mutation will continue to be passed on to all of its progeny, including subsequent primitive cells and other batches of semen.

As men age, more of these primitive cells have collected mutations that cause Apert syndrome, leading to more sperm with the mutations in each batch of semen, the scientists suggest. The risk of having a child with Apert is about six times higher for a man age 52 than for someone who's 27.

Authors on the study are Glaser, Jabs, and Rebecca Schulman, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Karl Broman, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Please everyone tell each other to explore this issue.