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Monday, 17 March 2014

Let’s be Serious about the Data - Flavonoids, Cytokines & Autism


You may be wondering why, with so many research papers written about autism, so little progress has been made.  It is a very complex task, but nobody is coordinating it.

How do you find a Boeing 777 missing somewhere in Asia?  Another daunting challenge, but with the right people and resources it can be done.  With the wrong people, it will prove to be impossible.
Ashwood et al have documented the level of various inflammatory markers in autism.  Very helpfully, they created three groups: typical children, children with non-regressive autism, and children with regressive autism.

Table 2, on the third page, tells us what we need to know.  Certain cytokine levels are markedly elevated in regressive autism, including IL-6 and TNF-alpha.  Furthermore, the difference between the two types of autism is dramatic; rather implying the existence of two distinct conditions.
 


So now, I move on to what could have been an amazingly helpful study, had they spent 1% more time on it and collected some blood samples and split the kids into regressive and non-regressive groups.

Last year in Athens, a study was done using Theoharides’ mix of luteolin and quercetin flavonoids to look at the effect of mast cell stabilization on behaviour in autism.  From recent posts, you will recall that these flavonoids reduce the level of inflammatory cytokines, histamine and nerve growth factor, by stabilizing so called mast cells.  In effect, the study was looking at the impact of inhibiting certain cytokines on behaviour in autism.

This sounds great and just what I wanted to find.  Get 40 kids with ASD measure their level of these cytokines/histamine and assess their behaviour.  Give them the cytokine inhibitor/mast cell stabilizer for six months, measure the levels in their blood and assess the behaviour again.
Sadly, they did not bother to take the before and after blood samples and send them downstairs to the hospital’s laboratory.
So we have a paper that took years of planning that tells us that the flavonoids do seem to help; but we do not know exactly why and we cannot correlate improvement in behaviour with change in cytokine levels.
What a pity.  

  

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