Autism – just the word causes panic in parents everywhere.
When I was growing up, polio had a similar effect. But the vaccine for polio has been found, while work on the prevention and treatment of autism is still continuing feverously.
To the horror of families with an autistic child, the scientific community can offer little in the way of reassurances.
The main reason for this stems from the lack of agreement over the causes of the disorder. And without knowing the causes, it’s pretty difficult to design treatments.
We can not even agree on figures for autism. With the change in classification of autistic symptoms, has the number of autism cases increased or held the same?
The scientific world is rife with theories, many of which were presented in the latest issue of Neurobiologae Experimentalis out of Warsaw, Poland.
This journal has never before been on my radar, but they decided to dedicate a whole issue of the journal to the autism debate and so caught my attention.
And what are the theories that are currently being brandished around?
Well, genetics and immune deficiency problems are at the top of many experts’ causal list.
New research represented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) by Ning Lei, PhD from Princeton University linked the newly discovered mutation of four genes with autism.
One of the new genes identified was neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2). NCAM2 is expressed in the hippocampus of the human brain — a region previously associated with autism.
One of the interesting things about this study is that Dr. Lei found that NCABM2 mutations were also common in the family members of autistic children, though these family members had no autism themselves.
The idea then is that other possible factors, including environmental toxins, have to come into play in order to for autism to develop.
The role of environmental toxins in the etiology of autism is as hotly debated as any of the other theoretical causes.
For many in the health field, the pervasiveness of environmental toxins in other disorders does make one question its role in autism.
Environmental toxins are disturbing for one reason because they have the ability to mask the detection of other conditions, such as hypothyroidism.
According to Mark Starr, MD, these toxins can disguise the levels of thyroid hormone in the body, making it nearly impossible to diagnose.
Because the thyroid is necessary for maintaining health, it is critical for it to function properly.
To learn more about how environmental toxins are masking thyroid malfunction, and how thyroid malfunction can be treated, check our courses on Mind/Body.
In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts on the causes of autism.
Do you know of someone who has been diagnosed with autism and whose story would be helpful to the larger debate about the causes and treatments of the disorder?
Please share your thoughts and opinions below.