Using mice (unlike Dr. Mady Hornig’s study, this group used a non-susceptible strain), the group found that thimerosal, proportionate to the amounts a child might receive in vaccinations, had an impact on dendritic cells, which are key elements of the immune system. As Dr. Pessah explains:
“They take up those foreign substances [identified in the article as bacteria, viruses or other antigens such as vaccine ingredients] and process them,” he said. “Once they do that, they migrate to the lymph nodes to present their information to the other immune cells, which can activate a global immune response.”
What the study found was that dendritic cells are “extremely sensitive” to thimerosal exposure:
Specifically, the thimerosal disrupted the normal biological signals that take place in cells, Pessah said. At lower concentrations, the signal disruption caused an inflammatory response; at higher concentrations it caused cell death.
“One could imagine that as concentrations of thimerosal vary in the organisms, you could get a plethora of unwanted or uncontrolled effects,” Pessah said.
And those effects could vary depending on the organism’s genetic background, he said.
The significance of all this should be apparent to anyone who has followed the ongoing controversy surrounding the possible (some of us would say “probable”) link between thimerosal and the diagnosis of autism. Many autistic children have immunological problems including allergies and gut problems. Many of those problems appear to relate to the yeast issues that may or may not be linked to some autistic behaviors.
Moreover, the theorized damage thimerosal does to the immune system may help explain how live-virus vaccines, such as the MMR, may do further damage that helps trigger diagnosable autism.
The research group has been careful to avoid calling their findings a smoking gun. And they are right; the study does not, in itself, prove a connection between thimerosal and autism. Dr. Pessah calls it a “framework” for further study. I call it another step in a long journey. But I believe that when the day comes that we say the connection has been proven, we will look back on this study as one of the most significant steps on the path.
For those of you who might be interested, the study’s abstract, with a link to a free pdf file of the complete report, which will be published in Environmental Health Perspectives, may be found at this link.