Paul Offit is Right! Autism is About the Synapse… and Dendritic Immunity.
Paul Offit is a controversial man. There are those who love him and those who revile him.
I just think he’s confused.
For a long time I have known that Dr. Offit, while he may be very good at developing and selling vaccines, does not appear to understand the workings of the brain. I don’t think we should really expect him to though. After all, he’s not a brain surgeon. He’s not even a neurologist. His field is vaccines. His specific field of interest and the one that has brought him a ton of money is diarrhea. That’s about as far from brain surgery as you can get, in my opinion. So maybe we should cut him some slack when he makes stupid statements like, “children can receive 10,000 vaccines in a single day.” If he doesn’t understand the brain and how it functions, chances are pretty good that he doesn’t understand the immune system either. He’s an infectious disease doc and a vaccine developer and patent holder. I think it’s safe to assume that Dr. Offit’s interests and research are pretty narrowly focused on those areas. That’s why it’s amazing to me that when he did his interview a while back, promoting his book and declaring that autism is the result of a problem with the synapse, he was actually correct – about the synapse part, anyway. Thing is… I don’t think he even knows what a synapse is, or how it works. Thankfully, there are people who do. Thankfully, there are also people who pursue the truth in research, not knowing where it will take them, and never receiving the recognition they deserve for their efforts. This post is dedicated to one of those scientists: Dr. Ralph Steinman. (I will get back to Dr. Offit, but first I have to give you some background information.)
This week has been a big one for numerous professionals who have been recognized for excellence in their work. These professionals are this year’s recipients of The Nobel Prize.
Sadly, one scientist who finally received this ultimate award was unable to claim his prize because he died three days before the announcement was made. Ralph Steinman was recognized posthumously for his 1973 discovery of the role dendritic cells play in immunity. As this article from Science Debate about Steinman and his discovery reports, the role of dendritic cells in immunity was given little attention until the 1990s. A 1998 article written by Steinman and Banchereau, published in the journal Nature, declared, “Dendritic cells in the periphery capture and process antigens, express lymphocyte co-stimulatory molecules, migrate to lymphoid organs and secrete cytokines to initiate immune responses. They not only activate lymphocytes, they also tolerize T cells to antigens that are innate to the body (self-antigens), thereby minimizing autoimmune reactions.”
In an online Science Debate article, published earlier this week (October 3, 2011), the author further explains, “Dendritic cells have the ability to initiate very strong immune responses. Therefore, dendritic cells play a very important role in infections and autoimmunity. These cells are present in virtually all tissues and are activated following “danger” signals.”
I heard about Steinman and his research while driving in the car earlier this week. At that point, what caught (and held) my attention was that some guy had won the Nobel Prize for medicine and his research had to do with “dendritic cells and immunity.” I made a point to encode in my memory the terms “dendritic cells and immunity” so I could remember later to do an internet search for this phrase along with “Nobel Prize.” The reason the announcement made an impact on me is because I have studied the brain and I have worked extensively doing neuropsychological assessments of children and adults. I know that dendrites are a very important aspect of neuronal growth and brain development. Dendrites are little tree-like structures that grow and proliferate in the developing brain, both in utero and in early childhood. Dendrites and their growth are important for cell-to-cell communication. As children grow and learn, connections that are used repeatedly become strengthened and those that are not utilized start to die out in what’s called a natural pruning process. So, when I heard that dendritic cells are involved in immunity, this was something new to me and I wanted to check it out further.
Above is the image of a dendritic cell, from the Science Debate article. Note the tree-like projections. These are called dendrites.
Below is an image depicting a neuron or brain cell. (copyright 2001, HowStuffWorks.) Note the dendrites projecting away from the cell body.
Here is an image depicting the process by which neurons communicate with each other. Note the Synapse.
Basically what happens is that as a neuron matures, one of those projections coming off of the cell body grows in a linear fashion and eventually hooks up with another neuron. The long projection that joins them together is called the axon. The axon is insulated and protected by the myelin sheath, which increases the efficacy of the electrical impulse that travels from the pre-synaptic neuron to the post-synaptic neuron. When something goes wrong with this process, neurons do not communicate with each other. When this happens in multiple areas of the brain, as happens with diffuse damage from toxic exposure, one of the effects is “processing disorders.” Information is not being “processed” because the neurons either cannot communicate with each other, or are not communicating effectively. If you have a child with autism or learning disabilities, you are likely to be familiar with the terms, “auditory processing disorder,” “visual processing disorder,” and “sensory integration disorder.” All of these “disorders” are related to problems with neuronal communication, via the synapse.
This is where Paul Offit is Right!
Dr. Offit’s discussion of the synapse is located at 1:20. You might want to watch the entire interview, though. It really makes clear that while Dr. Offit may be an “expert” on infectious diseases he doesn’t know squat about neuronal communication. If he did, he would realize that he just made the case for vaccines being the cause of autism.
Autoimmunity and Synaptic Communication:
One of the things that can cause synaptic communication to go haywire is when the body attacks it’s own structures; a process known as autoimmunity. Dr. Vijenra Singh has researched autoimmunity in children with autism, with a particular focus on autoimmune attacks on specific brain proteins: Neuron-Axon Filament Protein (NAFP) and Myelin-Basic Protein (MBP). As you can imagine, an autoimmune attack on either the axon-filament or the myelin sheath would cause problems with the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. Dr. Singh’s research is very interesting. His findings indicate that among children with autism in his study, those who had the highest antigen response to measles and HHV-6 were the kids who were most likely to have autoimmune markers for NAFP and MBP. This is information I have been aware of for some time, and have had the opportunity to utilize when I was working in private practice as a Defeat Autism Now! practitioner. Among the children I saw, those who had the highest measles and HHV-6 titers also tended to have markers for autoimmunity.
Given this NEW information, regarding the function of dendritic cells in immune system functioning and autoimmunity, things are really starting to make sense for me. I hope I can make them make sense for you!
Now that you know what neurons and dendrites are, and how they function, please watch this video of what mercury does to the brain.
Now, please re-read this quote from the Science Debate article: “Dendritic cells have the ability to initiate very strong immune responses. Therefore, dendritic cells play a very important role in infections and autoimmunity. These cells are present in virtually all tissues and are activated following “danger” signals.”
I think what’s going on as those neurons are dying after being exposed to mercury would constitute a “danger signal.” Don’t you?
Immune System Problems are Widespread in Children Diagnosed with Autism.
At the risk of being redundant, please re-read this quote from Banchereau and Steinman’s article published in the journal, Nature (1998): “Dendritic cells in the periphery capture and process antigens, express lymphocyte co-stimulatory molecules, migrate to lymphoid organs and secrete cytokines to initiate immune responses. They not only activate lymphocytes, they also tolerize T cells to antigens that are innate to the body (self-antigens), thereby minimizing autoimmune reactions.”
And please read this (from Science Debate): “Dendritic cells are the sentinels of the immune system; their migration, maturation and mobilization are fundamental to immunity and tolerance. It is now known that dendritic cells are a heterogeneous group of cells that includes several distinct subpopulations.”
Now please ask yourself this question: “Now that I have seen what mercury does to the dendrites on neurons (brain cells), and now that I know that dendritic cells are present throughout the body, what can I assume may be going on in other areas with regard to immunity and health as a result of exposure to mercury?”
Mercury destroys dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are essential for immune system functioning. ‘Nuff Said.
I was interviewed in August of this year (2011) on Linderman Live! During that discussion, Curt Linderman and I talked about the ever-increasing number of children who are being diagnosed with Primary Immune Deficiency Syndromes (PIDS). We talked about how we both believe strongly that the huge increase in the incidence of immune system problems and childhood cancers is related to vaccines. What I have learned over the last few days about Dr. Steinman’s research certainly supports that belief.
Thank-you, Ralph Steinman. I am so sorry that you were not able to be here to realize the importance of what your research will mean to the autism community and for children the world-over. I, for one, am celebrating your genius and congratulate you on your award.
With my ultimate respect and gratitude,
Note: for a list of vaccines that still contain mercury, please click here.
To listen to the interview on Linderman Live! please click here.