By Teresa Conrick
Mainstream medicine seems to be toying around with the idea of "borrowing" scientifically sound interventions from the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) movement and other alternative doctors who treat autism. This recent article, Antioxidant shows promise as treatment for certain features of autism, study finds , is an irony on many levels. Some highlights, that we will call -- IRONY #1:
- A specific antioxidant supplement may be an effective therapy for some features of autism, according to a pilot trial
- The antioxidant, called N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC, lowered irritability in children with autism as well as reducing the children’s repetitive behaviors.
- Stanford is filing a patent for the use of NAC in autism, and one of the study authors has a financial stake in a company that makes and sells the NAC used in the trial.
- “One of the reasons I wanted to do this trial was that NAC is being used by community practitioners who focus on alternative, non-traditional therapies,” Hardan said. “But there is no strong scientific evidence to support these interventions
Interesting ..."no strong scientific evidence to support" seems hardly correct. Investigating NAC years ago, I discovered its use in Autism was most probably related to its use as a chelator of toxic metals.
There are 81 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and mercury. Here are some good examples:
- N-acetylcysteine as an antidote in methylmercury poisoning
" The present study demonstrates that oral administration of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a widely available and largely nontoxic amino acid derivative, produces a profound acceleration of urinary methylmercury excretion in mice.....The ability of NAC to enhance methylmercury excretion when given orally, its relatively low toxicity, and is wide availability in the clinical setting indicate that it may be an ideal therapeutic agent for use in methylmercury poisoning."
- N-acetyl cysteine treatment reduces mercury-induced neurotoxicity in the developing rat hippocampus.
"Mercury is an environmental toxicant that can disrupt brain development....Here, based on its known efficacy in promoting MeHg urinary excretion, we evaluated NAC for protective effects in the developing brain. In immature neurons and precursors, MeHg (3 μM) induced a >50% decrease in DNA synthesis at 24 hr, an effect that was completely blocked by NAC coincubation.....Treatment of MeHg-exposed rats with repeated injections of NAC abolished MeHg toxicity. NAC prevented the reduction in DNA synthesis and the marked increase in caspase-3 immunoreactivity. Moreover, the intermediate-term decrease in hippocampal cell number provoked by MeHg was fully blocked by NAC. Altogether these results suggest that MeHg toxicity in the perinatal brain can be ameliorated by using NAC, opening potential avenues for therapeutic intervention."
- Thimerosal Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with Glutathione Precursors
"Thimerosal alone induced approximately 3-fold decrease in cell viability whereas pretreatment with either cystine, glutathione,
or NAC provided significant protection from cell death....It is likely that the extracellular NAC and glutathione provided partial protection by complexing with the Thimerosal in the culture medium as well as by increasing intracellular glutathione levels....The significant protection by NAC and glutathione ethyl ester against Thimerosal cytotoxicity suggests the possibility that supplementation with glutathione precursors might be protective against mercury exposures in vivo. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of NAC in increasing intracellular glutathione levels and reducing oxidative stress in humans."
There are 16 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and aluminum. Here is one example:
- Effect of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage in rats.
"Aluminium is a potent neurotoxin involved in the initiation and progression of various cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. ....Therefore, the present study was designed to explore the possible role of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium mediating cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress in rats.... Chronic administration of N-acetyl cysteine significantly improved memory retention in tasks, attenuated oxidative damage and acetylcholinesterase activity in aluminium-treated rats. The study suggests a neuroprotective effect of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage."
And the holy grail of N-acetyl cysteine --- 308 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and the IMMUNE SYSTEM. Here is an indication of how NAC helps on a cellular level in Autism:
- Anti-inflammatory properties of N-acetylcysteine on lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages.
"Innate immune cells play a role in modulating host immune response. Part of the macrophage inflammatory response is the release of an array of inflammatory cytokines, important molecules during the development of innate and adaptative immunity. Several antioxidant agents have been used in the control of the inflammatory response....NAC modulates immune functions during the inflammatory response."
Take your pick as each of these is involved in Autism which brings me to --- Irony #2:
The Defeat Autism Now movement has been harassed, ridiculed and kicked in the gut by many in mainstream medicine who mocked the thought -- that Autism had anything to do with the IMMUNE SYSTEM -- and the damaging effects of things like MERCURY/THIMEROSAL, ALUMINUM, BACTERIA and VIRUSES. Could it be that they are now trying to OWN some of these safer, alternative medical interventions as their own, and move away from Risperdal, a side effect nightmare -- quote from the above article, "these drugs cause significant side effects, including weight gain, involuntary motor movements and metabolic syndrome, which increases diabetes risk."
I am all for developing safe interventions BUT let's give credit where credit is due. The Defeat Autism Now movement was correct! They paved the way for children with an Autism diagnosis to be looked at for their devastating medical issues - gut, allergies, inflammation, seizures, infections -- pain -- that so many have had for too, too long. Thank you to all of the doctors, and of course to Megan's doctors, who continue to look outside the box to ease the pain and the debilitating symptoms of this IMMUNE SYSTEM disorder called, Autism. Bless them all and never give up.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.