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Metallothionein proteins regulate the blood levels of trace minerals like copper and zinc, detoxify mercury and other heavy metals, and assist in neuronal development. Some researchers believe it is possible that defective functioning of these proteins may be one underlying cause of autism.

When the functioning of metallothionein (MT) proteins is defective, it can result in impaired brain development and extreme sensitivity to environmental substances. The expected consequences of defective MT proteins (and subsequent buildup of toxic metals and minerals in the blood and nervous system) during gestation or early infancy are consistent with several classic symptoms of autism.

Studies of autistic patients by Dr. William Walsh and Dr. Anjum Usman found that many had abnormal levels of copper and zinc in the blood, in concentrations which provided a reliable indication of the degree of MT function.

Consequences of metallothionein dysfunction

  1. Abnormal levels of copper and zinc, especially in the first thirty months of life, affect neuronal development, leading to incomplete maturation of brain and nervous system.
  2. Lack of heavy metal detoxification occurs when MT is unable to perform one of its normal functions of binding with cadmium, mercury, and other toxic metals to keep them out of the bloodstream. Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning, including numbness in the extremities, can be subtle and overlooked by doctors and parents in children with no obvious environmental exposure to heavy metals.
  3. Impaired immune function might contribute to autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease.
  4. Incomplete maturation of the GI tract might contribute to other GI disorders, including food allergies or sensitivities.

Efficacy in Autism

Chelation therapy is not considered effective in treating autism.[1] Mayo Clinic states that it is based on The Myth of Mercury Poisoning causing autism, and warns that chelation may lead to fatal complications.[2] The FDA has warned against several false autism treatments, including chelation.[3]

Treatment

Chelation therapy is the most common treatment for removing heavy metals from the body. It is typically used in situations that are otherwise untreatable.

Deaths and Proponents

Chelation therapy has killed children and adults, through blood issues, depleted calcium levels, and cardiac arrest.[4][5][6][7] Desperate people may be lured in by swindlers who promise that chelation will cure them or their child, when in fact most medical professionals would warn against it in their cases, given its high risks.[8][9]

Autistic adults and their loved ones are campaigning against its use for fear that it may lead to more deaths. Autism rights groups address chelation as part of their concerns about unproven and unethical therapies.

The highest profile proponents of chelation therapy were Mark and David Geier. In late April 2011 Mark was struck off the medical register in Maryland, USA, for his use of the chelator Lupron - a drug usually used to chemically castrate sex offenders[10]. Consequently, a number of other states also removed him from their medical registers. Consequently his medical license was revoked in all states that he had a license - the last of which was Hawaii in 2013[11].

John Best Junior is a determined and deluded proponent of chelation.

References

  • Autism Treatments: Metal-Metabolism and Autism
  • Walsh, W.J., Usman, A., and Tarpey, J.; Disordered Metal Metabolism In a Large Autism Population, Proceedings of the Amer. Psych. Assn.; New Research: Abstract NR109, New Orleans, May, 2001.
  • Walsh, W.J., Usman, A., Tarpey, J., and Kelly, T.; Metallothionein and Autism, Second Edition, Pfeiffer Treatment Center, Naperville, IL (2002).
  1. Forbes: No Evidence Supporting Chelation As Autism Treatment
  2. Mayo Clinic: Is chelation therapy an effective autism treatment?
  3. FDA: Beware of False or Misleading Claims for Treating Autism
  4. Deaths Associated with Hypocalcemia from Chelation Therapy --- Texas, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, 2003--2005
  5. FDA links child deaths to chelation therapy
  6. Boy with autism dies after chelation therapy
  7. Study Warns of Chelation Therapy Risks
  8. Another clean kill by chelation
  9. Kill or cure: Misuse of chelation therapy for human diseases
  10. http://blogs.plos.org/thepanicvirus/2011/05/20/maryland-charges-david-geier-son-of-doc-accused-of-endangering-autistic-children-with-practicing-medicine-without-a-license/ Maryland charges David Geier
  11. http://web.dcca.hawaii.gov/OAHadmin/PDF_INDEX/OAHPDF/MEDICAL%20BOARD/MED-2011-79-L%20MARK%20R.%20GEIER%20M.D.PDF
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