Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments to Treat Autism?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment is one of those treatments that is used for more conditions than just autism. It’s also one of those treatments that any parent would question when they first heard about, leading to a need to research it and the claims. An article I wrote earlier this month covering MMS treatments for autism led to comments about hyperbaric oxygen treatments from a parent in an autism support group I co-run. I had to research these claims. To my own surprise, my research has now lead me to a place of interest- I want to know more.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments
Whenever a “normal” person has to focus on a completing a task there’s an upsurge in blood flow to the brain. The increase in the blood flow that’s seen supplies their brain with more oxygen and glucose which, in turn, gives their cells the energy that’s needed to accomplish their task. In children with autism, however, several studies have shown the contrary. Shockingly in a lot of cases they actually present with diminished blood flow. When autistic children’s brains are attempting to accomplish a task their blood flow doesn’t increase which deprives them of the oxygen and glucose needed for their cells. This lack of blood flow and glucose is a result of cerebral hypoxia resulting from hypoperfusion.

The difference in cerebral blood flow after HBOT... Photo Courtesy of autism-nutrition.com

According to a study releases in ScienceDigest by a Mr. Daniel A. Rossignol, "Numerous studies of autistic individuals have revealed evidence of cerebral hypoperfusion, neuroinflammation and gastrointestinal inflammation, immune dysregulation, oxidative stress, relative mitochondrial dysfunction, neurotransmitter abnormalities, impaired detoxification of toxins, dysbiosis, and impaired production of porphyrins. Many of these findings have been correlated with core autistic symptoms. For example, cerebral hypoperfusion in autistic children has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory and stereotypical behaviors, and impairments in communication, sensory perception, and social interaction.” This is where Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) comes in. While HBOT has only been used to treat autism for around 2 years it isn’t used just for autism.
Over the years doctors have started using HBOT for things such as: 
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Gangrene
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Closed Head Injury
  • Stroke
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Anemia
  • Injury from Crushing
  • Brain Abscesses
  • Skin Grafts and Flaps
  • Delayed Radiation Injury
  • Flesh-Eating Disease
  • Skin Infections that are causing Tissue to Die
  • Thermal Burns
  • Central Retinal Artery Occlusion
During the treatment the individual with autism lies down on a table in an “enclosed chamber” and breathes in 100% oxygen, subsequently the pressure in the “chamber” is slowly changed. The typical protocol for autism is to breathe the pure oxygen for about one hour. Pressure inside of the chamber is set at 1.3 to 1.5 ATA. These numbers compare to a depth of ten to seventeen feet of seawater.
When done in a hospital setting, properly, HBOT is considered to be safe; nonetheless many critics still advocate against using it for treatment of autism. However fires associated with HBOT have been known to have caused 80 deaths worldwide over the years, including a grandmother and her grandson who died whenever the chamber exploded in Florida in 2009.

An example of a HBOT chamber../Photo Courtesy of www.cacitches.com

The Parental Claims
The claims that parents make concerning their children being in HBOT are rather amazing, to say the least. Of course more studies need to be done to correlate the claims of these parents. It must be said that the studies currently available are quite remarkable though. There are claims of almost completely cured children to children that had unbelievable results within 20 hours of receiving their first treatments. Though I personally doubt the validity of these claims to their fullest the thought of them being accurate certainly induces hope.
Some of the Claims for using HBOT:
  • Improved Sleep
  • Calmer and More Affectionate Children
  • Improved Focus and Attention
  • Improved Bowel Function
  • Being More “Present”
  • Less Sensory Disturbance
  • Improved Cognition
  • Increased Speech
  • Improvements in Language
  • Improvements in Eye Contact
  • Improvements in Socialization
  • Increased Appetite
  • Improved Digestion

HOBT Side Effects and Precautions
As with almost any other therapy there are side effects associated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. These treatments mostly include things such as fatigue, ear pain, and/or lightheadedness after treatments. There are other, less common, side effects associated with HBOT.
Less Common Side Effects:
  • Damage to the Lungs
  • Rupturing of the Middle Ear
  • Damage to the Sinuses
  • Changes in Vision causing Myopia
  • Lung Failure
  • Fluid in the Lungs
  • Seizures
It’s important to also note that it’s recommended that you avoid having HBOT if you have a pacemaker, are pregnant, have certain lung diseases, take chemotherapy, or have a collapsed lung, have heart failure, a cold or fever, are claustrophobic, and if you take the drugs disulfiram or sulfamylon.

As a parent of a child with autism standing on the outside of this treatment looking in it seems quite risky. Quite risky but also quite interesting. If the claims of the parents are proven to be true over the next several years than I would be interested in possibly looking into the treatment for my son. Not at this time though. I don’t believe that-at this time-the proven positive results outweigh the possible negative consequences associated with this treatment. This is simply my opinion though. Over the next several years I do believe that scientist may be able to make more sound correlations between what can be proven by medical science and the claims of the parents who use this treatment on their own autistic children.

ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might improve certain pathophysiological findings in autism
ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve symptoms in autistic children

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Using Cannabis to Treat Autism; is this the Answer?

In an effort to advance it seems science sometimes looks to areas that make the general public choleric. If you’re an individual with abhorrence for “thinking outside the box” then I can assure you the direction researchers are leaning, in regards to THC as an autism treatment, is really going to agitate you.

The Studies

A 2013 Stanford University Study looking into the different affects certain genetic mutations related to autism have on the brain of mice resulted in findings they didn’t expect. The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine co-awardee- Prof. Thomas Sudhof, Dr. Csasa Foldy, and 2010 Goldman-Rakic Prize in Neuroscience winner- Dr. Robert Malenka all set out to acquire a further understanding of how various mutations in the brain may or may not contribute to autism. They focused their study on two types of NL3 neuroligin mutations (NL3 KO and R451C KI) with a few main goals in mind; two expressly:

  • ·         Find a mutual phenotype between the two different NL3 mutations

  • ·         Test if NL3 KO and R451C KI mutations cause different phenotypes, even in divergent synapses on the same neuron. 

Photo Courtesy of Nanotechnology and Neuroscience

While looking at the NL3 KO mutated mice they noticed their tonic endocannabinoid signaling was disrupted, as were they in the R451C KI mutated mice. These finding are exciting: before this study researchers knew so little about tonic endocannabinoids that their existence as an unambiguous process was actually unclear. Given that this phenotype is found in both mutations of the NL3 neuroligins used [NL3 KO and R451C KI] this clearly shows that the NL3 molecule is the very first known molecule essential for tonic endocannabinoid signaling, subsequently substantiating the fact that tonic endocannabinoids aren’t “accidental” transient endocannabinoid leakages. In addition, this also gives strong credence to the theory that loss of endocannabinoid signaling may be a component to autism.

When the researchers shifted focus to the RC451C KI mutated mice they were strongly motivated to prove R451C KI mutations can cause “loss of function”. They were irrefutably able to prove this theory which enabled them to say that autism may be caused by a disruption in the child’s brain’s ability to send clear communications. This strongly suggesting that cannabinoids, such as THC, may be productively used in treating autism [by unblocking the disruptions].

In 2012 Dr. Daniele Piomelli, of the University of California Irvine and Dr. Olivier Manzoni of INSERM (French National Research Agency), took “Fragile X mice” and treated them with endocannabinoid compounds that corrected the endocannabinoid transmitters in their brains. (Endocannabinoid compounds made in your body share a significantly similar chemical structure with THC)

Once treated with endocannabinoid compounds the “Fragile X mice” exhibited immense improvements in maze tests aimed to measure anxiety and open-space acceptance. Overall the study points towards potential cannabis treatments for the cognitive deficits and anxiety found in autism as well as other disorders. All 5 researchers across the two studies are in agreement that more research needs to be done.

Bringing the Research to Life

Currently 14 states allow cannabis use in children. One California mother has become a pioneer in the use of cannabis in children. Her courage has given other parents the courage to speak out ultimately creating a movement.

Improvements Seen from Cannabis use in Autistic Children:

  • ·        Improved Sleep

  • ·         Diminished Hyperactivity

  • ·         Minimized Irritability

  • ·         Decreased Stereotypy

  • ·         Diminution in Seizures

  • ·         Decrease in Violent Outbursts

  • ·         Minimized Inappropriate Speech

  • ·         Initiating Physical Contact

  • ·         Improved appetite

Of course the mental image of an autistic child smoking a joint is incommodious; certainly you’ll be relieved to find out that’s not how they administer cannabis to children. There are two active ingredients in cannabis: THC and CBD. Either type can be administered numerous ways.

Administering Cannabis to Children:

  •  ·         Edibles (Brownies, muffins, suckers, etc.)    
  • ·         Drinks (Tea, Lemonade, Soda, etc.)

  • ·         Honey Sticks

  • ·         Capsules

  • ·         Oils and Lotions

There are studies on medications relevant to cannabis use in autism worth citing, Dronabinol and Epidiolex. Dronabinol is a THC based medication given to chemotherapy and AIDS patients to battle weight loss and loss of appetite. In autistic children it has shown exceptional results in all areas referred to above. Epidiolex is a CBD based medication that has shown to improve symptoms of epileptics. Currently there are studies going looking into its effectiveness when used in autism.

In Conclusion

It’s realized more research needs to be done, also, that there are side effects to cannabis usage. The prospect of any new treatment is exciting, this one more than most. Not because of the cannabis movement in America today, but because there are a lot of things on that list my child suffers through and no medication has ever helped with. I’ve set up 7 nights a week for 11 years crying because my child won’t sleep (literally), I’ve held my baby in basket holds while he tried his hardest to hurt himself or me-knowing he didn’t care which way it went, and I’ve watched my angel seize continuously having to be put into a coma to calm his body while his mind continued to seize. Yes, I’ve begged in my head for him to want to be hugged all while wishing he’d calm down and I’ve cried while he struggled to speak. He’s gone through more in his 11 years than most do in their whole life. So you see, this prospect interests me as a parent in an impossible situation with a child that few understand.

The principal arguments made in opposition to this treatment are the side effects and potential for addiction. As I see it, a vast majority of medications used to treat autistic children aren’t approved for use in minors, a great deal don’t help or have preposterous side effects and some are addicting as well (all ostensibly worse [to me] than the side effects concomitant with cannabis use). It seems that, perhaps, it’s time we open our minds to other approaches since none of the treatments we have now are up to par.


Cell: Autism-Associated Neuroligin-3 Mutations Commonly Disrupt Tonic Endocannabinoid Signaling
University of California Irvine: Boosting natural marijuana-like brain chemicals treats fragile X syndrome symptoms

Other Sites of Interest: