A recent study just came out that seemed important. It showed that some children [thirty-six percent] with an Autism diagnosis had significantly higher serum S100B protein levels than healthy controls and that those with severe autism had significantly higher serum S100B protein than children with mild to moderate autism. The study was looking at levels to determine autoimmunity in Autism and since my daughter has both severe symptoms of Autism and has been positive for autoimmunity on the antinuclear antibodies test, this study seemed very relevant. Though 36% does not seem like a huge number, there may be factors involved lowering it. It seemed reasonable to explore this more as to why this would be. More data can be obtained too too, it appears-- "Elevated S100B levels in biological fluids (CSF, blood, urine, saliva, amniotic fluid) are thus regarded as a biomarker of pathological conditions, including perinatal brain distress, acute brain injury, brain tumors, neuroinflammatory/neurodegenerative disorders, psychiatric disorders. In the majority of these conditions, high S100B levels offer an indicator of cell damage when standard diagnostic procedures are still silent."
This S100B, according to the Autism study, "...is a calcium-binding protein that is produced primarily by astrocytes. Increased serum S100B protein levels reflect neurological damage. Autoimmunity may have a role in the pathogenesis of autism in some patients. Autoantibodies may cross the blood–brain barrier and combine with brain tissue antigens, forming immune complexes and resulting in neurological damage......"Furthermore, S100B protein may act as a cytokine [46,50,51], and in vitro studies have shown that, at high levels, S100B protein can induce the neuronal expression and secretion of proinflammatory IL-6. Elevated levels of S100B have been detected in the CSF of MS patients during acute phases or exacerbations of the disease , and it has therefore been proposed that elevated S100B protein may be indicative of active cell injury  and can reflect an axonal and glial pathology."
The conclusion, "S100B protein levels were elevated in autistic children and significantly correlated to autistic severity. This may indicate the presence of an underlying neuropathological condition in autistic patients." They did not find a correlation to the levels and autoimmunity but recommend further research, "is warranted to investigate the possible link between serum S100B protein levels and other autoantibodies, which are possible indicators of autoimmunity to central nervous system in autism."
Now that would seem to be the end of this topic, bleak and uncertain as to the source of the high levels, but the fact that more severely affected children had higher levels warranted me to check it out. A picture emerged that related back to my investigation of melanin and its connection to Autism and other neurodegenerative diseases, including Cancer and interestingly yet alarmingly, Melanoma Some research to make that point:
- "S100 proteins as cancer biomarkers with focus on S100B in malignant melanoma: "
Circulating S100B levels very sensitively detect metastatic growth of malignant melanoma, particularly in stage IV disease where S100B is certainly superior to other laboratory parameters. S100B concentrations reflect tumor mass.
- "Role of serum S100B and PET-CT in follow-up of patients with cutaneous melanoma:"
Disease progression was confirmed in 81.7% of patients (in 86.5% of patients with clinical signs of disease progression and in 69.7% of asymptomatic patients with elevated S100B) "
- "Tumour Marker: Protein S100B" (HERE)
Protein S100B is a member of a family of calcium binding proteins. S100B is present in astrocytes and glial cells in the brain and also in melanocytes. .... The plasma concentration of S100B has been shown to be related to tumour burden
Now this is not the first time that I have paired Autism with Cancer and that is a frightening concept. I don't want to create panic but where is the alarm and furor to research and help our very sick children?
Since studies has shown mercury in the recipe of regression, into an Autism diagnosis, that seemed to be another avenue to investigate with this protein, S100B:
"Cerebrospinal fluid S100B increases reversibly in neonates of methyl mercury-intoxicated pregnant rats." (HERE)
The increment of CSF S100B in neonates exposed to MeHg reinforces the view that increased S100B is related to damage in the nervous system and that S100B could be a marker for MeHg-neurotoxicity. Although the cellular mechanism related to MeHg-induced increase in S100B content in CSF remains unknown, our results suggest the use of S100B as a peripheral marker of brain damage induced by MeHg.
"Methylmercury increases S100B content in rat cerebrospinal fluid" (HERE)
Our data show that the amounts of S100B increased in CSF of rats after chronic MeHg exposure. In this regard, several studies have demonstrated the existence of a correlation between some injuries of CNS and S100B levels in CSF and serum (Ingebrigtsen et al., 1999;Wong et al., 1999;Wunderlich et al., 1999; Walz et al., 2000; Lara et al., 2001; Portela et al., 2002). However, studies dealing with the correlation between S100B levels and metal-induced neurotoxicity are scarce.... These data reinforce the view that increased S100B protein content in CSF is related to damage in CNS.Concluding, the present study shows, for the first time, an increase of S100B levels in rat CSF after chronic exposure to a neurotoxic metal. From a toxicological point of view, these new data are extremely important because introduce S100B protein as a new marker for MeHg-induced neurotoxicity...taking into account the relationship between S100B levels and MeHg exposure, it is possible that, in the near future, this glial protein could
become a useful marker for biological monitoring of individuals occupationally/environmentally exposed to this neurotoxicant."
I wondered if Thimerosal, the vaccine mercury that is still in use today in some vaccines, like the Flu vaccine here in the states and around the world, could also cause an increase in S100B. This study seemed to indicate that it was very possible, so I asked Boyd E. Haley, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Kentucky Chemistry Department, what his thoughts on S100B were, based on this research. His reply, "Yes, the data on thimerosal and mercury effects on S100B levels in blood look like a good marker for both toxic metal exposure and ASDs. It should definitely be studied as a potential biomarker for ASD.” His thoughts mirror mine in that it doesn't seem like enough work in this area has happened in regards to Autism and possible biomarkers yet here were possible puzzle pieces showing a connecting picture. It appears that some pharmacological researchers are looking into S100B inhibition in both neurological diseases and cancer -- their product goal -- "ameliorates increases in pathology in response to injury and environmental toxins."
If there is a possibility that there are other ways to obtain S100B levels, it may be helpful to explore. If cancer, tumors and Autism are coming up with high S100B levels, then it seems very important to see if this subset of children with diagnoses of Autism might actually be under-reported, as blood serum levels may be only telling us a small part of a bigger picture. Why is it that NIH and more specifically NIMH, steering the research for Autism via the IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committe) under Dr. Tom Insel, is not looking into any of this environmental research and biomarkers for Autism? If mercury and Thimerosal can cause brain damage and S100B is a marker of that, it is a very sad day in our country that a government agency, responsible for research of cause and treatments in this epidemic of Autism, is negligent and appearing derelict on their job. Autism Speaks, though not a government agency but a private, public-friendly organization, securing millions of dollars a year from families, organizations, businesses and loving friends and families to thousands of affected children, has, like IACC, used donated or grant money for research that is often disgracefully and ridiculously not even close to the correct science of Autism research.
If someone were to pick obsolete and incongruent studies to hunt for the cause of Autism, one would not have to look further than the gems IACC has funded and researched. The blatant ignorance and avoidance of environmental involvement in the "neurological damage" that is being shown in these studies is horrendous. It should not be tolerated anymore. We must speak out against this active avoidance of the truth.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.