Saturday, August 29, 2009

Evidence of a difference

The realization that autism had to advance medically was painful.  David had participated in getting a law passed here in Colorado that defined autism as a medical condition.  This effort might have been good for getting the insurance companies to participate in autism treatment, but it did nothing to get the medical community to see autism as anything more than another psychiatric condition.  Medically, an autistic child was exactly the same as any other child.  And then there were Dr Rosemary Waring and Dr Margaret Bauman. 

Doctor Bauman performed autopsies on autistic brains. 
Bauman, M.L. and Kemper, T.L. (1994) Neuroanatomic observations of the brain in autism, in The Neurobiology of Autism (Bauman, M.L. and Kemper, T.L., eds), pp. 119-145. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

She found that there was an abnormality concerning the number of the purkinje cells in the brain.  She also showed that the size of the amygdala was different.  The amygdala was smaller in children like David and where the amygdala was enlarged that child was profoundly autistic.  This was interesting.  It was a start.  It showed that there was something medically different between autistic children and other children.  On the other hand, I had no clue what a purkinje cell was, what it did or why the size of the amygdala should be different in autistic children.  Further, I could see no way to exploit that information in any way that might help David.  Even saying as much as I have said now taxes my knowledge beyond any background I might claim. 

And then there was Dr Rosemary Waring.  When I first read about her, she was performing experiments with children and Tylenol (though they do not call it tylenol in England).  Autistic children are statistical outliers in how long they take to process tylenol through the blood stream and out the kidneys.  This led to the discovery of a lack of PST, phenol-sulfur-transferase, in autistic children.  Perhaps that would explain why David took so long to get over the anesthesia stupor he suffered after the MRI. 

It is another thing that is medically different among autistic children.  This would seem like something that could be exploited to make autistic children better.  Sadly, I have seen nothing in the autism medical bag that even acknowledges this difference.  At the least, that fact that autistic children are statistical outliers in how long they take to process tylenol through the blood stream could be used as a medical marker to see if a child is autistic.  They could use that or one of several aspects of this condition.  Instead, medical science funds phrenology as a means for determining if a child is autistic and trumpets it as a triumph in Newsweek. 

But it was the discovery that there are low levels of glutatathione in autistic children that intrigued me the most.  More on that in the next blog entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment