Subtitle: Is autism an autoimmune disease? True or false…
I love Google. When I’m connected to the Internet doing research, the Google Search function is my best friend followed by Wikipedia.
I suspect that this ubiquitous software App is taken for granted by any web surfer because it is so easy to use.
Behind the scenes, there are probably thousands or millions of programming code statements that parse and process a user’s search query. The way it works is using what was formerly called Artificial Intelligence, aka Machine Learning.
From the abacus to Smart Phones, mankind has come a long way in developing intelligent tools to mimic the way that the brain thinks and behaves.
However, we have not yet mastered the biological programs (software) that cells use, those tiny little molecules made up of various parts sloshing around in our bodies including the neurons (neuronal cells) in our brains.
That’s what medical researchers are trying to do. They are working diligently to understand what causes autism by attempting to debug the software in human cells, primarily those located in the brain.
Furthermore they need to understand the paths taken by those floating programs and subprograms that wind up sloshing around between the three pound glob between our ears via the wiring (synapses).
One of the features that I use with Google is called the Google Alert function. With my Google account, I can set up key words for Google to search for on a daily basis and send me an email with stories containing those words. I do that with the word “autism” and a few others.
This morning I received my daily Google Alert with several articles on autism. One of those was the daily “cause du jour” which contained a story about asthma drugs causing autism.
The researchers noted that the drugs can affect certain cell receptors (program hooks) and cross into the placenta, thus affecting the fetus. This makes sense to me and is probably true, and it is also probably true for anything that a pregnant woman ingests or breathes.
The subtitle contained a controversial question, whether or not autism is an autoimmune disease.
An autoimmune disease is when the body mistakenly makes antibodies (autoantibodies) that attack the “self” or the good body tissues. In essence, the human immune system is malfunctioning.
What this means in simple terms is that the biological programs and subprograms of cells are full of “bugs” or incorrect messages to other cells, thereby causing unintended consequences, i.e. cell death or apoptosis, and medical researchers are trying to “debug” those programs in cells.
All I can say is, “Good luck!”, because those little biological programs and subprograms embedded in cells work like Google using “Artificial Intelligence” or “machine learning” to change the “code” (programs) as needed.
Fortunately we do have tools to “debug” the software, i.e. interpreting what the cells are doing. The most basic tool is called a Complete Blood Count (CBC). That tool checks our red blood cells (RBC) and more importantly our white blood cells (WBC). The white blood cells are the ones that really give us the clues as to what our bodies are doing correctly and incorrectly.
If we dive into “debugging” the software just a little more, we have the technology to check the nucleus of a cell. Those tools are called the Antinuclear test (ANA) and the Extracted Nuclear Antigen Panel (ENA). These blood tests check to see if the immune system is producing abnormal amounts of autoantibodies to fight antigens (bad cells) which in turn give us clues about a potential autoimmune disease.
What medical scientists have determined is that over a third of autistic children have abnormal ANA and ENA tests i.e. elevated autoantibodies.
Since we autistics supposedly have brains that think more logically than non-autistics, it seems to me that it is logical to conclude that autoantibodies (over active good cells) may be the “smoking gun” to solving the autism puzzle.
If that is true, then the software affecting and embedded in overactive autoantibodies (cells) needs to be “debugged” and reprogrammed. We do have some effective immunosuppressant drugs that tell those culprits to take a break, i.e. steroids.
However, the problem is that we do not have a computer powerful enough nor a database full of sufficient algorithms and data to figure out how the most complex machine (human body) fully works, especially those clever cells in the brain.
Mankind has been trying to do this for a long time, it’s called epigenesis, second guessing a cell’s next move and how to alter it is the prize for all of these medical researchers.
I suspect that my daily Google Alert emails will continue to entertain me with all sorts of theories as to the cause of autism, some logical and some just plain silly.
Therefore, what exactly is the point to solving the autism puzzle? I’m confused…
Nevermind, I just figured it out!
If we solve the autism puzzle, then we can figure out a way to engineer a pill to mitigate it.
That’s called pharmacology and it’s good for the economy, especially the Pharmaceutical Economy!
[To be continued…]