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Did Chinese scientists find autism’s missing puzzle piece?
BY J.B. HANDLEY February 22, 2017
Scientists appear to be far closer to explaining the mechanisms of action within the body that cause autism. Most of the research that has created this understanding has been published in the last 36 months, and largely from international scientists in Canada, France, Israel, and China. Four clear, replicable, and related discoveries explaining how autism is triggered are forming an undeniably clear picture of autism’s causation, and possibly ways to alleviate the symptoms, too.
PASADENA, California — When Caltech scientist Dr. Paul Patterson passed away in 2014, I had little appreciation that he had triggered a chain of events over the course of his career that may now provide a clear and unambiguous explanation of how and why my son developed autism back in 2004. Knowing exactly how my son’s autism was caused is incredibly important to my wife and I, because the more information we have about causation, the more chance we have to do something about it, and perhaps recover my son from an affliction now impacting 1 in 48 American kids.
What you’re about to read is the product of more than two dozen very recent peer-reviewed published scientific studies, with really no original thought by me. I’m a businessman and a father, but what follows is a “grand theory of autism” so complete and well-supported that I think it deserves the attention of every member of the autism community. When the totality of this explanation became clear to me, not only did my jaw hit the floor, but I was immediately consumed with thoughts about how this clear explanation might impact the way we treat our son’s autism, and I hope it does the same for you and perhaps your doctor as well. What I’m certain of is that this “grand theory” needs to be heavily debated, and I hope by putting it in the public realm I help move it along that path. (I’m indebted to an anonymous scientist who runs a website called Vaccine Papers, where many of these insights came from. I will quote VP throughout this piece, referring to VP as “VP.” I highly recommend you read the totality of his website, where the explanations are far more scientific than what you will read here.)
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the final piece of this puzzle came from China. I’ve listened closely to the stories of American scientists wanting to study autism and complaining that any studies that are even remotely controversial are nearly impossible to fund or get approved. As you will see, Chinese scientists do not appear to have that same constraint. In a way, many American, Canadian, and French scientists have pioneered a pretty clear picture of how autism is caused, and the Chinese helped tie it all together. That’s at least my interpretation, please make your own judgment.
Discovery #1: “Maternal Immune Activation” can cause autism
Caltech’s Dr. Paul Patterson
While Dr. Patterson’s passing wasn't something I was aware of at the time, it was certainly recognized by the scientific community, of which his obituary from Caltech explains in great detail. Dr. Patterson’s “research focused on interactions between the nervous and immune systems — a connection that was not universally acknowledged in the early days of neuroscience” explains his obituary, “he became intrigued by epidemiological studies that had linked a severe viral or bacterial infection during pregnancy with the increased risk of a woman giving birth to a child with a neurodevelopmental disorder such as schizophrenia or autism. Patterson and his coworkers reproduced this human effect in mice using a viral mimic that triggers an infection-like immune response in the mother, producing in the offspring the core behavioral symptoms associated with autism and schizophrenia.”
In 2006, Dr. Patterson introduced his complex understanding of the interaction between the immune system and neurodevelopment through an excellent article in the Engineering & Science journal, titled Pregnancy, Immunity, Schizophrenia, and Autism. I hope you’ll take the time to read this for yourself, Dr. Patterson does a great job of explaining his discovery to the uninitiated, it’s really a seminal work. Here’s a quote:
“As we learn more about the connections between the brain and the immune system, we find that these seemingly independent networks of cells are, in fact, continually talking to each other. As an adult, the activation of your immune system causes many striking changes in your behavior — increased sleep, loss of appetite, less social interaction — and, of course, headaches. Conversely, stress in your life (as perceived by your brain) can influence immune function — the brain regulates immune organs, such as the spleen, via the autonomic nervous system.
Recent evidence shows that this brain-immune conversation actually starts during the development of the embryo, where the state of the mother’s immune system can alter the growth of cells in the fetal brain. As we shall see, such alterations can lead to an increased risk of schizophrenia or autism in the offspring.”
Are you with me so far? Basically, what Dr. Patterson is saying is that if a pregnant mother gets sick (virus, bacteria) while pregnant — an event that “activates” her immune system — that activation can impact the neurodevelopment (how exactly the brain is constructed) of her fetus, potentially leading to neurological problems after birth. Dr. Patterson took this explanation a step further, explaining that the brains of people with autism reflect the immune system activation that took place, even decades later, as he cites valuable work being done at Johns Hopkins:
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