I had the privilege of speaking at the Talk About Curing Autism Conference, which was held in Philadelphia this weekend (5.1.15).
The topic that I was asked to present was Mast Cells. Dr. T C Theoharides is a world’s expert on this subject, but couldn’t attend, so I was asked to lecture in his absence.
Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that exist is various locations throughout the body, and are responsible for protection and healing. They do their work by discharging chemicals, such as histamine, from packets that are contained within the specialized cell.
Dr. ‘Theo’ has published a great deal of the research about these critters, and among his discoveries are the following:
Mast cells exist in relative abundance in the skin, but also in key areas of the brain that ultimately affect sensory and cognitive function.
The cells have an intimate physical and chemical relationship with the blood vessels, nerves, and other immune cells inside the brain.
Mast cells function differently inside the brain than in the skin, releasing their chemical contents in different ways and with a variety of substances other than histamine.
They could be responsible for ‘brain allergy’ and many of the signs and symptoms of ASD, such as brain ‘fog’ and irrational outbursts.
Prevention of mast-cell release inside the brain may be a valuable tool in the treatment of autism.
The organization was founded at the beginning of this century as a parent support group to discuss the growing epidemic about which doctors and other professionals did not seem to have a clue – from diagnosis, to cause, to treatment or prevention.
The mission statement includes a belief “in early diagnosis, intensive therapies and medical intervention for children affected by autism. With early intervention, medical treatment unique to each person’s needs and necessary support services for families many children can improve greatly and some can recover from their autistic symptoms.”
“From a grassroots beginning in Southern California, TACA expanded nationwide and now has a physical presence via our Chapters in 23 states and a virtual presence in the rest of the nation.”
In the beginning, there was ‘Defeat Autism Now!’ – a group of physicians (DAN! doctors) and parents, searching for answers about how to understand and help patients affected with ASD.
That organization has grown and given rise to the Autism Research Institute and The Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs. Now, Autism Speaks, The Autism Society of America, Generation Rescue, and many other local organizations have emerged, dedicated to bringing relief to this modern epidemic.
In the medical vacuum that has appeared since the rise of ASD, doctors have yet to really fill the void with solid research or reliable interventions. What the autism community needs is either a cohesion of the disparate charities that already exist, or a new entity that helps to raise dollars for primary and clinical research that yields even more knowledge and hope.