Researchers Find Link Between Nicotine Addiction and Autism

Researchers Find Link Between Nicotine Addiction and Autism

November 17, 2008

Scientists have identified a relationship between two proteins in the brain that has links to both nicotine addiction and autism. The finding has led to speculation that existing drugs used to curb nicotine addiction might serve as the basis for potential therapies to alleviate the symptoms of autism.

The discovery identified a defining role for a protein made by the neurexin-1 gene, which is located in brain cells and assists in connecting neurons as part of the brain’s chemical communication system. The neurexin-1 beta protein’s job is to lure another protein, a specific type of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, to the synapses, where the receptor then has a role in helping neurons communicate signals among themselves and to the rest of the body.

This function is important in autism because previous research has shown that people with autism have a shortage of these nicotinic receptors in their brains. Meanwhile, scientists also know that people who are addicted to nicotine have too many of these receptors in their brains.

If we were to use drugs that mimic the actions of nicotine at an early time in human brain development, would we begin to help those and other circuits develop properly and thus significantly mitigate the deficits in autism? This is a novel way of thinking about how we might be able to use drugs to approach autism treatment,” said Rene Anand, associate professor of pharmacology in Ohio State University’s College of Medicine and principal investigator of the research.

It would not be a complete cure, but right now we know very little and have no drugs that tackle the primary causes of autism.”

The drugs in question are known as cholinergic agents, which interact with the brain to counter nicotine addiction. Anand said the medications could be retailored for use in children in an effort to increase the level of neurexin-1 beta protein in the brains of people with autism.

More neurexin would in turn not only enhance the presence of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, but also a host of other proteins that are important for the proper formation and maturation of synapses. Proper synapse function is critical to the nervous system’s ability to connect to and control other systems of the body.

Now that these associations have been made, we believe that nicotine in smokers’ brains possibly increases the level of neurexin-1 and, as a consequence, helps bring more receptors to the synapses and makes those circuits highly efficient, reinforcing the addiction. In autism, we have the opposite problem. We have a lack of these receptors, and we speculate that neurexin levels are lower,” he said.

Anand presented the research Monday (11/17) at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington, D.C.

Autism symptoms include impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive or severely limited activities and interests. An estimated three to six of every 1,000 children are diagnosed with autism, and boys are four times more likely than girls to have the disorder, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Anand and colleagues were studying drug abuse and addiction when they discovered the neurexin-1 beta protein’s relationship to a certain type of nicotinic receptor. The timing of the discovery was key, as it built upon two other research groups’ previous observations: The brains of people with autism and other neurological disorders that were examined after their death showed a 60-percent to 70-percent decrease in specific nicotinic receptors, and some patients with autism have mutations in the neurexin-1 gene that suggest the gene’s improper functions could play a role in the disorder.

These have all been ‘association studies.’ None has been able to prove what causes autism,” Anand said. “And then we accidentally discovered that neurexin-1 and nicotinic receptors tangle. So we knew that there was a genetic link to the process leading to synapse formation, and we had nicotinic receptors that had disappeared in the brains of autistic patients. Our finding filled a gap by saying there is a physical and functional association between these two things occurring in the brain.”

Neurexin has implications for tobacco addicts, as well, Anand said. Yet another group of researchers recently found that people with a mutation in the neurexin-1 gene were more likely to be smokers, meaning changes in the gene’s functions that lead to excess levels of the nicotinic receptors might make people more susceptible to nicotine addiction.

Our research reveals how changes in the functions of neurexin could affect the guidance of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors to their functional destinations in nerve cells, perhaps increasing receptors in tobacco addicts while decreasing them in autistic individuals, thus increasing susceptibility to these devastating neurological disorders,” Anand said.

The finding also has implications for nicotine addiction because drugs known to alter neurexin’s guidance of nicotinic receptors within nerve cells could be used to suppress tobacco addiction.

This work is partially funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and by an OSU Medical Center Research Day Travel Award.

Coauthors of the study are Stephanie Amici and Susan McKay of Ohio State’s Department of Pharmacology; Shi-Bin Cheng, Xiao-Qin Ren, Magdalen Treuil and Jay Rao of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans; and Jon Lindstrom of the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: Ohio State University

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FDA nixes state appeal to ban multi-dose vials

FDA nixes state appeal to ban multi-dose vials

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rejected an appeal from New York State’s health commissioner to ban the manufacture of multi-dose vials, saying they are an important option for hospitals.

In January, state Health Commissioner Dr. Richard Daines and New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, sent FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach a letter calling for the FDA to eliminate the manufacture and distribution of multi-dose vials.

Although there are federal and state guidelines against the practice, reusing syringes in multi-dose vials was the source of at least one hepatitis C transmission by Plainview pain management physician Dr. Harvey Finkelstein. The health department was criticized last November when it was revealed that because of legal delays and complicated lab tests, it had waited three years before telling the public of Finkelstein’s improper practice.

In a letter dated Jan. 18, both Daines and Frieden said that despite “numerous guidelines and recommendations,” some doctors continue to misuse needles and syringes, leading to contamination of multi-dose vials. Daines said he believed it was better to “engineer out” human error by getting rid of multi-dose vials.

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Gulf War Research Panel Finds 1 In 4 Veterans Suffers From Illness Caused By Toxic Exposure

Gulf War Research Panel Finds 1 In 4 Veterans Suffers From Illness Caused By Toxic Exposure

At least one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness, a condition caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug administered to protect troops against nerve gas, and no effective treatments have yet been found, a federal panel of scientific experts and veterans concludes in a landmark report released Monday.

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Age of Autism View

Feckless IOM Does Agency’s Bidding: Sound Familiar?

National Vaccine Registry

National Vaccine Registry

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Vaccines are now recorded and registered with your state’s vaccination registry.

 

According to the CDC:

 

Immunization Information Systems are confidential, population-based, computerized information systems that attempt to collect vaccination data about all children within a geographic area. IIS are an important tool to increase and sustain high vaccination coverage by consolidating vaccination records of children from multiple providers, generating reminder and recall vaccination notices for each child, and providing official vaccination forms and vaccination coverage assessments. One of the national health objectives for 2010 is to increase to 95% the proportion of children aged <6 years who participate in fully operational population-based IIS.

 

If you look further down the page you will find this statement:

 

State law requires that information in the IIS be kept confidential. Only you, your doctor, or healthcare workers who can assist you have access to the information. The information will not be shared with any other people or any other agency. If you are not interested in having your child in the IIS, all you would need to do is contact your state IIS and request to “opt-out” of the registry.

 

Healthcare workers would include Department of Health, CDC, and other government monitoring agencies. Is your child’s school a healthcare agency? Last I knew they were in the education field, yet they have access to it as well. Even the WIC program has linkages. See also: WIC Policy for Immunization Screening and Referral

 

Is this “opt-out” provision true? Not entirely. New York State no longer allows an ‘opt-out’ provision. That means, all children regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, are in the system. If this vaccine registry was solely for its stated purpose above, why would nonvaccinated children need to be in it? They don’t need reminder notices or updated vaccination forms, etc.

 

Will children with medical or religious exemptions need to be included in NYSIIS?

  • These children will be entered in NYSIIS and their records noted with the appropriate exemption. NYSIIS is a valuable tool to identify and protect these children in the event of an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease. (bolding mine)

 

Why not call it what it is: identify, track, control, and discriminate.

I have heard many stories over the last few years of parents who ‘opted out’ in other states, yet they have found their child in the vaccine registry. Wouldn’t that be a clear violation of the HIPPA law?  No, and here is why:

 

Shalala Will Decide Privacy Rights If Congress Does Not Meet Deadline

 HIPAA provided that, if Congress does not enact legislation to create standards to protect individually identifiable health information in medical records by August 21, 1999, then the Secretary of HHS is required to establish rules governing how much information the government and other third parties can get out of private medical records by February 21, 2000. Currently, there are four medical privacy bills in the House and Senate, including the Health Care Personal Information Nondisclosure Act of 1999 (S.578-Senators Jeffords/Dodd); the Medical Information Protection Act of 1999 (S.881-Senator Bob Bennett) and the Medical Information Privacy and Security Act (S.573/H.R. 1057-Leahy/Kennedy).

All of these medical “privacy” bills allow extensive exemptions for unrestricted access and use of personal medical information in an individual’s medical records by anyone who invokes a right to access and use this information in the name of the public health including government officials, researchers and law enforcement officers. Citizens can be enrolled without their informed consent as research subjects in medical experiments if researchers make the case that the study will contribute to the public health.

This means that, without the individual’s informed consent, researchers working with government, industry and private physicians will be allowed unrestricted access to personal medical records for the purpose of enrolling unsuspecting patients in medical research experiments. Scientific researchers of the future could experiment on citizens with new drugs and vaccines. The elderly will not know whether the nursing home doctor urging the use of a new antidepressant or the family pediatrician recommending to a mother that her infant get 15 vaccines in one day, is making that recommendation because it is in the best interest of the individual or because the doctor has enrolled his patients in a government-endorsed medical experiment.

 

 Often, when these parents have requested to opt-out, they have been given false information from the Department of Health or have had to jump through hoops to get their child’s name removed. I seriously question if their name is ever entirely removed.

 

 The AAP’s stance:

 
The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to support the development and implementation of immunization information systems, previously referred to as immunization registries, and other systems for the benefit of children, pediatricians, and their communities. Pediatricians and others must be aware of the value that immunization information systems have for society, the potential fiscal influences on their practice, the costs and benefits, and areas for future improvement.

 

Yes, the almighty dollar sign right in the first paragraph…cha-ching!

 

How did the National Vaccine registry come about? Who or where does it get its funding from?

 All Kids Count

 The All Kids Count II program, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) from 1998-2000, sought to make 16 immunization registry projects based in local, county, and state health departments fully operational by January 1, 2000. The program also sought to develop a long-term policy to ensure registries are implemented and sustained nationwide. The program built on progress made under All Kids Count Phase I, 1992-1997, an RWJF program to begin the development of registries.

The national program office was based at the Task Force for Child Survival and Development in Atlanta With guidance from the program’s National Advisory Committee, the national program office gave grants ranging from $300,000 to $700,000 to 16 projects.

RWJF’s Board of Trustees authorized up to $11.25 million for phase II beginning in 1997.

 

…In late 1997, public policy set the stage for All Kids Count projects and other state and community registries to take a giant step forward. President Bill Clinton issued a presidential directive to Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala “to start working with states on an integrated immunization registry system … we have to do it and do it right.”

 

As a result, an Initiative on Immunization Registries was undertaken by the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), with support from the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) and the National Immunization Program of the CDC.

At the same time, more communities and states were developing or implementing registries. In 1998, when All Kids Count II began:

 

All 50 states had begun developing immunization registries.

Some 18 states had a law or rule authorizing immunization registries.

Ten states and several cities had mandated private provider reporting of immunizations to registries.

In 2001, 25 states had a law or rule authorizing immunization registries, and several states planned to introduce legislation or rules authorizing registries.

 …Educational Effort
All Kids Count began an intensive effort with immunization partners, especially the National Immunization Program, American Academy of Pediatrics and Every Child by Two (a non-profit organization that raises awareness of the importance of getting children fully immunized by the time they are two years old) to inform policymakers about the benefits, costs, and savings of registries, and the need to find a sustained source of funding if the promise of registries were to be realized.

 …The education effort culminated in a legislative briefing held May 1, 2000, in Washington, D.C. Hosted by former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and Mrs. Betty Bumpers, co-founders of Every Child by Two, the briefing had bi-partisan sponsorship from members of the Senate and House. Leading health organizations, health care professional organizations, and education organizations co-sponsored the briefing.

Carter and Bumpers urged legislators to find the political will and financial backing for development of immunization registries.

 New Federal Attention and Funding

…The education effort paid off. At the July 2000 National Immunization Conference, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala promised support through the Medicaid program.

In Fall 2000, Medicaid announced its commitment to fund development and implementation of immunization registries at an enhanced rate of up to 90 percent matching funds for registry costs associated with Medicaid-eligible children (approximately 26 percent of children under age 7).

 

In June 2000, the Institute of Medicine issued Calling the Shots: Immunization Finance Police and Practices, a report on the future of the nation’s immunization system. It noted that community immunization information systems are an important tool to help keep children from but that a commitment must be made to ensure their success.

 

The report, approved by NVAC in January 2001, recommended:

 Continued and increased support for registries through the federal immunization grant program.

Wide promotion of use of Medicaid funds for registries.

Seeking approval to use the CDC’s Vaccines for Children operational funds for registries.

Discussions with insurers/health plans urging them to provide support for registries.

Development of a five-year, $60-million a year grant program to support further development and initial operation of registries.

 

…As All Kids Count II closed in 2001, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded All Kids Count for three years to develop a vision for information systems that will integrate data about multiple health services.

 

 Immunization Registry Strategic Plan 2002-2007

Medicare and Medicaid funding

Federal Direct Assistance Grant Funds

Research Grants