New scientific studies based on a dietary supplement give hope to autistic children, thanks to extended research conducted by Greek expatriate Dr. Theoharis Theoharides — Professor of Pharmacology, Integrative Physiology and Pathobiology and director of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery in the School of Medicine at Tufts University in Boston.
Autism, according to Theocharides, is not a psychiatric disease as originally thought and there is now a body of evidence that autistic children have an inflammation in the brain.
Dr. Theoharides spoke to Greek Reporter in depth regarding this important topic.
What does nature offer to fight autism?
Unfortunately, what we have done to our environment comes back to haunt us. There is strong evidence from numerous studies that the environment and stress triggers act either alone or in association with some gene mutations conferring susceptibility to cause “epigenetic” changes, in other words activate otherwise dormant genes to super-activate the immune system and cause focal inflammation in brain areas critical for emotions and language.
Luckily, nature can supply us with substances such as luteolin from chamomile and hydroxytyrosol from olive fruit extract (olive kernel oil) that can reduce this brain inflammation. However, it must be stressed that these must be pure to the extent possible, must be prepared in FDA-certified Good Manufacturing Practices Facilities and formulated in such a way that they ensure maximal absorption after oral administration and should be tested in clinical trials. Such are NeuroProtek, NeuroProtek-Low Phenol and BrainGain (see the nonprofit organizations www.brain-gate.com and www.autismfreebrain.org). One should also be aware of unsubstantiated and misleading claims about possible harmful effect of luteolin.
Even though the US FDA does not regulate dietary supplements, if you voluntarily ask them to examine the conditions, source, amount and purity, it issues an official certificate of free sale intended for export, and all three supplements mentioned above have such a certificate.
How did you conclude on these results (based on luteolin, a substance contained in chamomile, and kernel oil)?
We have been studying for years the ability of certain natural polyphenols, that include the subclass of flavonoids, for their ability to also inhibit a special immune cell, called the mast cell, from secretin numerous inflammatory and neurotoxic substances. We found that one of the most potent triggers of these cells, that until recently we thought were only involved in allergic reactions, was a peptide found in the brain and the gut called neurotensin. We then showed that neurotensin is very high in the serum of young children with autism. We subsequently showed that pretreatment with luteolin could block the ability of neurotensin to trigger these mast cells. I have been awarded two U.S. patents on this discovery and its implications.
Do you think that a dietary supplement can help overpass this condition or even eliminate it completely?
It must be stressed that autism is a spectrum of different severities and possibly different disorders. It has also become apparent that there are different subtypes within the spectrum. For instance, about 60% of autistic children have allergic problems and food intolerance, about 30% have gastrointenstinal (GI) problems, about 20% have mitochondrial dysfunction, and some 10% have seizures. It is, therefore, obvious that not all children can be treated the same way. Our evidence so far from two published clinical trials and hundreds of personal reports from the use of NeuroProtek, is that the allergic and GI symptoms are significantly reduced within two months, eye contact and sociability increase within 4-6 months in about 60% of children and about 15% of children start speaking within 6-12 months.
However, it is VERY important that one checks the following because they may indicate additional treatment approaches:
- Blood levels of all vitamins
- Blood levels of inflammatory factors (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, TNF)
- Blood and urine levels of heavy metals (Aluminum, cadmium, lead, mercury)
- Blood and urine levels of oxidative stress markers (low glutathione, high prostaglandin F2alpha)
- Blood high pyruvate/low lactate after tiring the hand from which blood is drawn by squeezing a ball which indicates mitochondrial dysfunction
- Blood levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin and their urine metabolite (VMA, vanillyl mandelic acid) that may indicate hyperractivity and aggression.
Dr. Theoharis C. Theoharides has published over 350 research papers and three textbooks. He has been placed in the top five percent of authors most quoted in pharmacological and immunological journals. He has received the Oliver Smith Award “recognizing excellence, compassion and service,” while doing his training in internal medicine at the New England Medical Center, Boston Mayor’s Community Award, the “Dr. George Papanicolau” Award, and is “Archon Ieromnemon” of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
He has received all his degrees with honors from Yale University from where he was awarded the Winternitz Price in Pathology. He is also a member of the Thessaloniki Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society.