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Greek-Am Scientist’s Hope for Autism

 

 

Dr. Theocharis Theocharides is considered among the top 5% of authors most cited in pharmacological and immunological journals. He received all his degrees with Honors from Yale University, he is a Professor of Pharmacology and Internal Medicine, and Director of Molecular Immunopharmacology and Drug Discovery at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and also was awarded the Dean’s Research Award, the Winternitz Price in Pathology and the Oliver Smith Award “recognizing excellence, compassion and service.”

Theocharides first showed that mast cells, known for causing allergic reactions, are critical for inflammation, due to their ability to secrete inflammatory molecules selectively without degranulation. In this way, they are critical for inflammation now considered essential in the pathogenesis of asthma, atopic dermatitis, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, coronary artery disease, mastocytosis, and psoriasis.

Theocharis Theocharides

Dr. Theocharis Theocharides is one of the world’s leading authorities on pharmacology and immunology.

As he contends, “half the diagnosis is spending time with the patient. In fourteen minutes that is the average time of examination the doctor has to take the medical history, the test and to make the diagnosis. That’s why we over rely on tests. Because we have no time to ask questions. In fact, not only we need to be talking to patients but talk also in their own language. We don’t have to put everything under the same diagnosis, even autism. Medicine comes across some terms and then you look through those terms. In order to say that something is autoimmune, you have to have auto antibodies or you have to have antinuclear antibodies.

In autism, you do not have antibodies. Technically is not an autoimmune disease, but an auto inflammatory disease because basically immunity would be in response to something that could be destructive, but is more like a chronic condition. Inflammation is more an auto acute reaction. Imagine that you have eczema in certain parts of your brain. We started studying autism five years ago. Ι was actually studying multiple sclerosis that time which is an auto immune disease and we were first to show that a certain cell, called a mast cell was present in the brain. We found out that 60% of the children had allergies or food intolerance.”

Dr. Theocharides made a breakthrough discovery based on luteolin, a substance contained in chamomile, and kernel oil that helps reduce oxidation and inflammation of the brain.

As he maintains “It’s a dietary supplement which is made in the US with all the requirements of a drug. It’s independently tested by a lab in California. It already has a public clinical trial. The FDA though does not have the authority to regulate it within the United States. The certificate is renewable every two years. We have to test the drug again every two years. It’s extremely important how we do a clinical trial. In the United States, a child on average takes drugs, vitamins and supplements. In order to do a clinical study we have to remove all of those and put a child on a placebo for a period of time. The first study was done in Greece because in Greece most of the children do not take any supplements. So, what we found, in a study that lasted from four to six months, was that 60% of the children had statistically significant improvement in making eye contact and in sociability. About 15-20% started speaking. We did not make a difference in irritability. Some of the 15% of the children in two weeks they became even more irritable but as it turns out, those children who did better started speaking, they told us they became more irritable because all of a sudden they felt they wanted to interact with other people very fast. The irritability might not necessarily be bad. It could be an indication that the whole body started to react. But patients and families, especially families if they don’t have enough time to talk to me or somebody else they are frightened and they stop it. There is no question that certain children are reversible. I just don’t know which children are those children yet. If you asked me what to expect, I would have told you that I believe in 6 months 1/3 of the kids will get much better, 1/3 of the children will slowly get better and will at least not forget what they are learning and the last 1/3 of the children, I just do not know why they are not getting better. The supplement that is given depend on the age and the medical history of the child. Many times parents ask me what they should be looking for. What I tell them is that the first thing they will see is that the allergies should be gone. This is how we make it. The mistake that people do is to blame autism for everything that happens to their child but this is not true. Children are extremely sensitive in many ways.”

Theocharides has created three nonprofit organizations for autism: soccer4autism.org, brain-gate.org, and autismfreebrain.org . As he maintains, “there is very little money for real research on autism. There is a lot of money for psychological approaches but not for real scientific research. Everybody has to be aware that the psychological result is a reflection of something physical.”

 

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