Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mitochondial Damage vs Smiley Faces

You would think that in light of the publicity given to the rulings in the Hannah Poling case over a year ago that the direction of research into autism would have noticeably shifted.  After all, the ruling highlighted the potential relationship between vaccines, mitochondial issues, and autism and pushed the possible relation into the public awareness.

I really expected to see some research by now that looked at the issue and addressed it one way or the other.  Maybe it is still coming, maybe it is not.  

Regardless, as I was reading Science Daily today I came across two different articles that seem to highlight some of the problems with research into autism.  One of these articles has to do with mitochondial issues and the other, well, smiley faces.

The first one was - 

Alzheimer's Disease Linked To Mitochondrial Damage
Investigators at Burnham Institute for Medical Research (Burnham) have demonstrated that attacks on the mitochondrial protein Drp1 by the free radical nitric oxide—which causes a chemical reaction called S-nitrosylation—mediates neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer's disease. Prior to this study, the mechanism by which beta-amyloid protein caused synaptic damage to neurons in Alzheimer's disease was unknown.
Alzheimer's is a truly terrible disease and it is a good thing that research is being done to determine the causes and what can be done to correct or prevent it.

The second one was -

Coming Face To Face With Autism

Sounds serious, right?  Wrong.
In the first study of its kind researchers will use video clips of spontaneously produced facial expressions in a real life social context to explore emotion recognition in autism.
This research, carried out at The University of Nottingham, will go beyond the more artificial emotion recognition tasks that have previously been used.
Clearly these two studies are not in the same league.  

I am not saying that it is not important to quantify emotion recognition in autism - OK, maybe I am saying that it is not important to quantity that.  We know that there can be impairments in that area, so this isn't going to lead to any new treatments or any hope of a cure.

I know that this isn't that fair to compare these two articles, they clearly are being done with different purposes in mind.  But can we please move on from research that attempts to prove that vaccinations didn't do it, that looks for the non-existent genetic smoking gun,  or asks "does this look sad to you"?

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