Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Autism gene - at least one of them?

BBC NEWS | Health | 'Gene test' for autism in sight

This sounds like it could be extremely helpful for ongoing research. I suspect it won't have clinical implications for some time -- if ever. The relatsionship to the cerebellum is interesting; I've long been interested in the remarkable problems some children with autism have at hitting a baseball. It seems almost a pathognomic feature.
By analysing the DNA from these individuals they found a region on chromosome 16 - PRKCB1 - appeared to be linked with autism.

PRKCB1 is expressed in granule cells in the cerebellum of the brain. Its associated protein is involved in transmitting signals from the granule cells to the Purkinje cells. Both these cells help relay messages in and out of the brain.

Researchers have already found a decreased number of both granule and Purkinje cells in the brains of people with autism.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A thoughtful defense of 'No Child Left Behind' in the suburbs

School Reform Moves to the Suburbs - New York Times

Salon and the Thimerosal conspiracy

Salon.com News | Deadly immunity

Salon has a long article alleging a widespread conspiracy on the part of clinicians, government agencies, and scientists to conceal a link between Thimerosal, a vaccine preservative, and autism.

The author lost me at when he claimed a heroic researcher who'd uncovered this connection had switched to the dark side and buried the data:
By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.
Scientists and researchers aren't always trustworthy. The risks of mad cow disease were underestimated by UK scientists, but so were the estimates of activists. Even so, this article reads like it's straight from the tin hat brigade. Physicians are notorious blabber-mouths; there's no way they could keep such a conspiracy going.

As best as I can tell, the Institute of Medicine is reasonably trustworthy. They felt we should look elsewhere to explain autism. I wouldn't say a connection to Thimerosal is impossible, but we have only so much time and money. Let's try looking at terrain that's not been so well walked.

When would I consider looking at Thimerosal again? I don't believed it's used much anymore. If the incidence of autism nosedives in areas where Thimeraosal is no longer used, then I'd say reverse course and resume the conspiracy investigation. If not, then forget about it.

PS. Someone has done a rather good job of dissecting the Salon article. He thinks it's nonsense and shows why. I'm adding skeptico to my bloglines!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Faxing and special needs children

Parents of special needs children are essentially running a small home business. Fax is a particularly annoying problem -- faxes to educators, clinicians, agencies, government, etc. This article reviews various Fax approaches, including MaxEmail (favored) and Innoport (good): Gordon's Notes: Fax and Voicemail to email: MaxEmail and more.

One advantage to Internet fax to email is that it's a cheap way to file and retain documents that are faxed, though MaxEmail does not store the faxes sent from their service.