The Subcellular Cause of Autism
May 24, 2016
Autism is a disease of 'unknown etiology'
One of the biggest problems that researchers face in trying to find a treatment for autism is that the cause - be it underlying biology or a disease process - has not been identified. Hence, different research groups have different ideas for what the problem might be, and as you would expect, treatments are very hit or miss.
Currently, there are no consistently reliable ways to treat or completely eliminate the disorder. Sometimes, a treatment might help to some degree in some autistics, leading to the problem that parents spend their life savings trying different treatments without success. The current treatments of choice are not cures, but rather a kind of 'retraining' that works within the context of the child's disability - and sadly even this does not help most severe autistics.
From a diagnostic perspective, there is currently no way to easily identify the disorder (as with a simple blood test, for example). Thus, various different problems with vaguely similar symptoms get lumped into the same 'autism' category. This is a problem for researchers, because they have no idea if they are trying to find a cure for one disease, many diseases, or something else entirely.
The Institute's research timeline
We also faced this same issue of an unknown cause in our own autism research work. Around 1998 or so, we had identified when in prenatal development the child first became autistic. Using this, we were able to come up with a preliminary treatment that targeted relevant epigenetic damage using trauma-healing techniques (for more, see 'epigenetic damage and generational trauma'). This approach was surprisingly successful. In 2000, we were able to eliminate autism symptoms in four out of six of the children we tested. However, we still did not understand the cause of the problem that we were somehow successfully treating in these children; so we were unable to improve on the treatment to help the two that did not respond to the process. Hence, we cancelled this research project while we continued our work in other areas.
Around 2008 in Denmark, we decided to take another try at treating autism. Working with 10 diagnosed children (of whom to our surprise only four were actually autistic) we tested an 'improved' process. Unfortunately, this new treatment was far less effective than the original one, and again we did not know why. So, with a lot of disappointment, we again cancelled the project.
By 2015, we were finally ready to really solve this issue. From an engineering perspective, it was pointless to continue if we did not totally understand the cause of the disorder. So we focused on just this; but this time, we did so by looking at one of the successfully treated families from 2000. The assumption was that they would be a sort of stepping stone - perhaps they still had some of the cause, but not enough to interfere with seeing what it was. And this worked! (We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Linda Johnson who volunteered hundreds of fairly painful hours to help us solve this problem.) With this approach, over a four month period, we were finally able to understand the cause of autism, and see what our original process had been treating.
The cause is two different subcellular diseases
The real cause of autism was rather a shock. It turned out that the problem was multigenerational, with the problem being carried by the mother's line. And the problem was two different diseases that infected both the mother and the child. To our surprise, the parent(s) had also been damaged by the disease, but without the severe, obvious symptoms that the autistic child presented.
The primary cause was a disease organism that looks a lot like a slug, but with teeth. These organisms are not in the brain or body (as far as we know), but rather inside the primary cell itself. And what they do is rather horrific. They 'eat' parts of the interior of the nucleus - and this causes damage to the brain as if this organism were eating the brain itself. In other words, the nucleus corresponds to the central nervous system, and subcellular damage inside the nucleus inhibits brain function. This also explains another puzzling thing about autism - this damage in the nucleus is rather random, looking a bit like mouse gnawed holes in cheese; in severe cases, the damage is as if the mouse had eaten down to the top of the brain stem. Note that children with this problem can have different symptoms that depend on exactly where the damage happens in the nuclear 'brain' structure. In fact, this is why the parents and grandparents may not show symptoms, because they were not damaged in key areas - they were able to compensate for the damage during their childhoods. Obviously, if the missing areas were in critical areas, say the brain stem, the parent would have displayed symptoms.
The 'slug' problem is the real cause of disabling autism. However, in some people there is a secondary problem - a somewhat unrelated disease of a totally different type. This one looks more like bugs at a subcellular level. This one attacks the subcellular structures that are experienced as the 'heart' and inhibits the emotional connection between parent and child.
In one case, we found the reason the autistic child was having seizures. It turned out in some of the 'empty' sections of the nucleus a particular bacterial species makes its home. This organism acts like an electrical short circuit to the surrounding structures, resulting in seizures. As of this writing (August 2016), we have not yet checked if this is true for other autistics or non-autistics with seizure disorders.
With our older existing technique, once the subcellular damage is repaired, the child goes through an accelerated developmental sequence - as if catching up on all the stages of growth that they missed in early childhood due to the disease. This takes a few months. But the restored emotional connection between parent and child happens immediately.
With this new information on the cause of autism, we were able to revise our old treatment. To test this, we then worked with a family that had no improvement with our old approach, and were able to finally eliminate the child's stimming, epileptic seizures and emotional outbursts.
How about brain damage?
From a treatment perspective, when a parent brings in a child in for help, reasonably enough they want the kid to be fully restored. Unfortunately, there is yet another kind of damage that blocks some kids from being 'normal' - the problem of brain injury. Although brain injury is unrelated to autism, we do see this in some children diagnosed with autism, because the symptoms can be somewhat similar and so get lumped into a diagnosis of 'autism spectrum disorder'. And of course some unlucky children can have both problems simultaneously. How do the two problems differ? Autism is about chunks of the 'brain' that are simply missing; brain injury is about regions of the brain that are present but either work sub-optimally, or in the extreme, are unable to work at all.
Fortunately, we developed a treatment for tramatic brain injury (TBI) back around 2006 or 2007. After the autism process is completely done - and the regions of the brain (actually, the nucleus that corresponds to the brain) are now present - the TBI process can be used to repair any damage to the child's brain that might be present. Note however, we don't think this process will work on damage from diseases like viral or bacterial encephalitis - it was designed to treat more mechanical damage.
In essence, the TBI technique restores 'resiliency' to the brain. To explain, imagine ten people who were identically impacted in the head. Some will have nothing more serious than a headache, while some will be permanently injured. How a person reacts depends on their brain resilience - and this is something that can be increased, causing brain damage symptoms to go away.
What about Asperger's Syndrome?
Around 2013 or so, we were able to track down the cause of Asperger's Syndrome. For those of you who are not involved in the autism field, it was sometimes identified as a 'milder' form of autism. A few years ago in the US it was rolled into the general category of 'autism spectrum disorder' and eliminated as a separate disease. It is still defined as a separate category in Europe's ICD-10 F84.5.
However, our work showed that Asperger's syndrome is an entirely different disease from autism, and our treatment for it is not based on our treatment for autism. People with Asperger's experience themselves in a kind of transparent glass tube, unable to reach out or feel the world around them. This disease can be easily diagnosed - simply move your hand towards the person's body. At a certain distance from their body, the person can suddenly 'feel' the presence of your hand. (This distance varies from person to person and from side to side of their body.)
Treatment is very simple and fast. Asperger's Syndrome symptoms are usually eliminated in one or two office visits. For more on the symptoms and treatment, please visit our clinic webpage.
- Subcellular Psychobiology Diagnosis Handbook by Dr. Grant McFetridge (2014), pg. 176-177.
- "Autism risk spotted at birth in abnormal placentas" by Karen N. Peart, Yale University News (April 2013).
- "New Theory Of Autism Suggests Symptoms Or Disorder May Be Reversible" by ScienceDaily (April 2009).
- The Autism Book: Answers to Your Most Pressing Questions (2005) by Bobledo and Ham-Kucharski. A good reference for parents.
- "Autism controversies". A layperson's brief summary of controversies around cause, cure, research, treatment, organizations, and neurodiversity.
- Brain white matter asymmetry in autism by Sophia Colamarino. Summary of Dr. Martha Herbert's work.
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May 24, 2016: First version of this webpage.