- IPad metal — nickel — faulted for causing allergic rashes
- Rand Paul to Rick Perry on Iraq: Get some new glasses
- ‘Fact-Checker’ blog takes on Dems for their comments on Hobby Lobby decision
- Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract sells for $1.02M at auction
- Citigroup settles subprime mortgage case for $7B
- Archie to be shot saving gay friend in comic book
- Sen. John McCain on illegal child immigrants: Fly them home, now
- Pope Francis puts number of priestly pedophiles at 2 percent: report
- Oregonians flee in face of fast-moving wildfire as homes go up in blaze
- Eric Holder: ‘Racial animus’ fuels opposition to Obama and me
WETZSTEIN: New hope rises for autism science
Question of the Day
The United Kingdom’s prestigious medical journal BMJ last week released what appears to be damning evidence about a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in which they saw an association with a childhood vaccination and onset of autism in eight previously normal children.
BMJ is expected to publish more articles on the issue, including material on Dr. Wakefield’s purported “business interests and the extraordinary sums of money he intended to make from his own vaccine, from diagnostic kits, and from all kinds of other weird products he was going to sell off the back of his scare,” journalist and BMJ article author Brian Deer told CNN host Anderson Cooper last week.
No doubt, parents and others who think a vaccine can lead to autism will not be swayed by the BMJ articles. It is just too hard not to believe that a specific event, such as getting a complex vaccine, changed a child from normal to not normal within days, weeks or months.
But perhaps there are more productive lines of thought that can give comfort to parents, especially if the vaccine theory proves unsustainable.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) rates have been climbing in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) once thought prevalence was about one child in 150. In 2009, CDC revised that to a shocking one child in 110.
Setting vaccines aside, what else could be causing autism? What treatments can be offered when a child starts displaying the telltale signs of social withdrawal, verbal loss and strange behaviors?
The answers to these questions will be found in numbers - and numbers already are pouring into a new database designed to assist ASD researchers in their quest for answers.
Since 2008, the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has collected ASD studies, large and small, Michael F. Huerta, associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told me recently.
NDAR staff carefully break down each study’s contents and define and standardize its data before adding it to NDAR, he said.
In December, researchers were given first crack at NDAR data, which involved about 10,000 people, and before long, they also should have access to five major repositories of autism data.
Researchers can “reaggregate the data” from these data sets, and this, “we think, will bring a new power to investigators,” Mr. Huerta said.
The NDAR model is so exciting that when Mr. Huerta, a 20-year veteran at NIH, tells others about it, “they want to clone it, use it, put their data in there.”
“It is really something whose time has come,” he said.
What might be included in the studies collected by NDAR? According to Geri Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, promising research is looking at:
• Early exposure to air pollutants, viruses, chemicals and other environmental elements.
• Parental autoimmune disease, such as diabetes and rheumatic fever.
• Premature births.
• “Increased levels of cytokines,” or small molecules secreted by the immune system, in children with ASD.
• “Autism risk” genes.
Promising treatments include “early enrichment” for young children; “inhaling” the hormone oxytocin; a new “friendship” social training program for children; a treatment for brain neurons using the induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells; melatonin treatments to encourage good sleep habits; and treatments aimed at correcting mitochondrial dysfunction in the cells, Ms. Dawson wrote in her year-in-review report.
I mention these things not because I understand them, but because they surely show the depth and breadth of the scientific hunt to vanquish this terrible illness.
I am also heartened by Ms. Dawson’s words and hope anyone distressed by the BMJ articles will be, too: After decades working in the field of autism as a scientist and clinician, she said, “I’ve never been more optimistic about the scientific breakthroughs that we will witness in the upcoming years.”
• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.
Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...
- Denver lawsuit accuses abortion clinic of not reporting rape of 13-year-old
- Fewer abortion clinics in minority communities: study
- Census: More first-time mothers give birth out of wedlock
- Activists sue to block New Hampshire abortion 'buffer zone' law
- Pace of state laws against abortion slows in 2014
Latest Blog Entries
- Gay therapy ban author seeks Calif. House seat
- Transgender 'bathroom law' gets 5,000 more signatures
- Pro-life, stem-cell bill signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
- N. Dakota lawmakers approve tough abortion bill
- Pope Benedict XVI's successor should allow priests to get a new title: Husband, poll finds
TWT Video Picks
By Robert N. Tracci
Congress must use its appropriations power to secure the border
- DOJ investigates Nebraska parade float critical of Obama
- Eric Holder: 'Racial animus' fuels opposition to Obama and me
- Violent gang MS-13 taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- CURL: The hypocrisy of Obama's 15-day Vineyard vacation
- A 'new Cold War': China's top paper warns of 'slippery slope' towards conflict with U.S.
- Agency scrubs Malia Obama photos at White House's request: report
- Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi formerly a U.S. captive
- EDITORIAL: The faux farmer in the Senate race in Iowa
- Defense Dept.: Contracting personnel may be wasting billions due to FAR regulation confusion
- Obama's 'blank check' rejected as border solution
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs