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Monday, August 27, 2012

More Speculation on Causes and Treatments

Robin Hausman Morris notices a surge in media speculation about causes and medical treatments:
Today, the NYTimes reports: An Immune Disorder at the root of Autism. We are told So here’s the short of it: At least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb. Check one for the mother’s fault.
Not to be outdone, it might be the fathers. The Clock Ticks for Men as well :in a fraction of cases — increased mutations found in the sperm of older men meant that they were more likely than their younger counterparts to father children with autism or schizophrenia. Go figure.
Big Chem, Big Harm indicates that it’s about PLASTICS! “And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson…Jesus loves you more than you will know (Wo, wo, wo)” Reported by Nicholas Kristof, we have a chemical problem: One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A,better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.
Finally, stem cell therapy for autism got a pitch in Bloomberg. Responses were rampant. Is stem cell therapy for autism just another hoax? The food for thought in answering this question is led by Scott Pelly of 60 Minutes: Stem Cell Fraud: A Sixty Minutes Investigation (video here). The most riveting comment in this report is a sting for vulnerable parents "Con-men offer hope that science cannot." Invaluable words.
A previous post discussed speculation about gut bugs.  Time reports:
Autism research has been the victim of junk science for a long time, principally as a result of the fanciful — and scientifically disproven — idea that the condition is caused by vaccines. That makes it harder for serious scientists to look at other, seeming improbable causes of the condition like the microbiome, at least without raising a lot of skepticism. Making things worse, the seminal, and discredited, study in the autism-vaccine mess suggested that traces of vaccine-related measles virus could be found in the guts of autistic kids, further muddying legitimate study of any real gut-bug connection.
Now, however, the research is emerging from under that cloud, and while no one has established a direct link between gut bacteria and autism just yet, the findings so far are intriguing. Up to 85 percent of children with autism also suffer from some kind of gastrointestinal distress such as chronic constipation or inflammatory bowel disease. Research published in 2005 in the Journal of Medical Microbiology and in 2004 in Applied Environmental Microbiology reported that the stools of autistic children contained higher levels of the bacterium Clostridium, while two 2010 studies in the Journal of Proteome Researchand Nutritional Neuroscience reported unusual levels of metabolic compounds in autistic children’s urine consistent with the high bacterial levels found in the stools of autistic patients. In 2011, a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that mice with essentially germ-free guts showed abnormal movement and anxiety symptoms, suggesting that at least some active intestinal biome is essential for normal development.