Autism seems to keep popping up everywhere.
In today’s NYTimes there’s an commentary on new Federal legislation whose aim is to boost Autism research. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
So I’ve been perusing a couple of blogs by autism researchers to discover that there is a thriving pseudoscience of Autism. For more on this visit BC’s blog (Bartholomew Cubbins on Autism). And I know you’ve probably heard of the heavy metals fanatics (i.e. mercury in vaccines causes autism), but it’s worse than that.
Just follow this scary slippery slope of the ill-informed.
So lets say that you buy into this unsubstantiated theory that heavy metals cause autism, how would you treat this? Chelators would by an attempt. And yes some quacks are dealing chelators such as EDTA to parents of autistic children. Of course EDTA will soak up many more abundant atoms that are NECESSARY FOR LIFE. So parents of autistic children DON’T give your kids EDTA, it’ll soak up all of the magnesium and calcium. Of course you can supplement those back in. But this is crazy. You see these “bad metals” are in you at trace levels, but you’ve got loads of calcium and magnesium and you need them at a certain level in your body. This EDTA procedure is like draining the ocean (EDTA being the bucket) and then adding back the water (calcium and magnesium) to remove an oil spill off of the coast of Alaska (“bad metals”). Good luck!
So EDTA is dangerous. How about selling something a little less powerful but with all the magic still intact. Yes (they must have thought) lets sell them … RNA! Yes, Ribonucleic acid polymers.
What the hell????????
I’m guessing that the idea stems from the fact that RNA aptamers have been shown to bind to various compounds. Or is it that nucleotide triphosphates bind to certain divalent cations? In any case whether RNA can act as a chelator or not is not important. Why? Because RNA is unstable.
Let me repeat. RNA is unstable.
Not only is the environment FULL of RNAses (that is enzymes that destroy RNA), but RNA can self hydrolyse at room temperature.
Lets look at the structure of RNA and DNA polymers to understand just why:
As you can see DNA has a backbone of where phosphate (PO4) is linked to a deoxyribose sugar (that would be the pentagonal structure) which links to the next phosphate and so on. Deoxyribose means that the hydroxyl group (the -OH group) on the second carbon of the sugar is not there. RNA on the other hand has a phosphate RIBOSE sugar backbone. Ribose has a hydroxyl group on it’s second carbon. This hydroxl group is very reactive. In part this extra -OH group is what makes certain RNA molecules act as enzymes (for example the ribosome). But this -OH group is also RNA’s Achilles heal – it can react with the nearby phophate group (which is right next door on carbon 3) and thus cleave the backbone … thus DESTROYING THE RNA. This reaction can be slowed down by incubating the RNA at very low temperature (I store mine at -80′C), but at room temperature most RNA polymers will be chopped up in a day or so (unless they have some secondary structure, but even for well folded RNA molecules, you’ll get small chunks in a day).
Now these so-called therapists will answer that people have figured out how to delay the hydrolysis reaction. Sure they have … by modifying the RNA so that the second hydroxyl group is no longer reactive. But these types of RNAs are all synthesized in a lab and costs mucho $$$$. No, they get their RNA from yeast. In other words this type of RNA is the type that spontaneously falls apart in hours.
Of course this autohydrolysis reaction requires H2O (aka water). You may think that they are at least storing their RNA as dried pellets in the freezer. But no! Their “product” is an aqueous solution of RNA stored AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!!!!!!
If there is anyone out there using this product for your autistic child. Stop now and sue these guys. They are cheating you blind! Their “science” wouldn’t stand up in any first year biochemistry class!
OK and here is more. I was perusing their bulletin boards, and here are some snippets of discussion:
Did I blow it? Just received RNAs and gave it to him directly in his mouth and his lips touched the droppers. Why isn’t it on the directions not to touch the mouth?!?! Did I just destroy 2 brand new bottles? I guess I was just too anxious. jb
So the parents are treating their autistic kids by applying RNA drops straight into the kid’s mouth. Holly crap. First their mouth is FULL of RNAses. And if you don’t know, RNAses are enzymes that destroy RNA and they are EVERYWHERE. You secrete them in your saliva & in your sweat. And if they survive your mouth (which they won’t) THEY WILL NEVER SURVIVE YOUR STOMACH. Trust me. When I work in the lab, I wear gloves and never touch anything with my hands because … my sweat is an enemy to all my experiments. RNAses are one of the most stable enzymes known to man. Usually you can heat enzymes to destroy their activity … but RNAses are so stable that heating your instruments are usually not enough. Autoclaving (i.e. heat + high pressure) is not enough. All my pipette tips (the little plastic liquid dispensers that lab workers use to manipulate liquids) are CERTIFIED RNAse FREE! That is, the comnpany actually test the tips right after they are manufactured to make sure that there is no trace of RNAse on them. Do they test for other nasty enzymes? Besides DNAse (which are very tame compared to RNAse) they don’t. The tips are then double wrapped and shipped to the lab where they are stored in an RNAse free cabinet which can’t be opened without gloves. Yes when you work with RNA you have to be a bit paranoid. Some even use tips with filters to make sure that RNAse that may be in they pipettor won’t be blown into their experiment. Now this dropper (from the parent’s message) touched the kid’s mouth! … thus in about 5min all the RNA molecules in the bottle are toast. So what is the standard reply?
Don’t fret, it should still be good for at least 30 days, maybe even longer.
I just thought that I would tell everyone what the RNA people told me at the conference about using this product. There was a bit of a scare recently about the dropper of the RNA touching your child’s mouth and ruining the whole bottle. That is true only after 30 days of contamination. She said that if the dropper touches the mouth that you should use very hot water to sterilize the dropper. If you don’t do this, the contamination takes 30 days to ruin the bottle. If your dropper turns dark (isn’t clear anymore) than you have a contaminated bottle. Also, she told me that the dosage on the bottle is wrong. Instead of a 1/2 dropper it should be 0.5 ml which is a 1/4 dropper. I was going through my bottles in about two weeks. Now hopefully they will last a month. I highly recommended to her that they insert instructions with the bottles and she said they would look into it. Hopefully this helps
Oh man … “If your dropper turns dark” … translation “if your RNA liquid is full of bacteria”.
Some parents on these discussion boards come close. Here’s an example:
I have some very basic questions that you guys must have resolved long time ago. Since this still bothers me, still want to post them here and get your help.
My questions are:
No. 1: The time when I got RNA products of Dr Yasko’s from my doctor, I was instructed to handle it carefully, for example without let the dropper touch the child’s mouth to avoid degradation and make the whole vial of RNA ineffective. This is understandable because RNAs are so easy to be degraded and RNAses exist almost every where. Thats why molecular biologists have to handle RNAs with such intensive care, otherwise the experiments will be ruined. Later on, I called my doctor’s office to ask if I have to give the medicine in such a care, how the RNAs can keep intact after I give to my child orally without degradation. My doctor’s office could not answer my question and just said since Dr. Yasko is an expert of this field there must be some reason. I agree that since Dr. Yasko is the first one to isolate single species of RNA some 20 years ago, she must have solved this problem in order to make her products work, but I still hope to know why we have to handle the products with care before we give to the child but it is not a problem to let them work after taken them orally?
No. 2: RNAs are macro molecules and it is not like the digestive enzymes (which are also big molecules) we give to our children, digestive enzymes just need to work inside the digestive tract without absorption, RNAs has to work not only inside the body but to my understanding they have to work particularly inside the cells and cell nuclei. Since RNAs are such huge molecules, even if it has been manufactured as derivatives to prevent from degradation by general RNAse, how it could be absorbed into the body and penetrate into the cells in order to work there?
Dear parents, I think most of you must have solved this problem before you take the RNAs. I have started giving my autistic son several RNA products, but I sincerely ask your help to let me clarify the above questions to let me keep on this program with more confidence in my mind. Thanks a lot in ahead.
Way to go! Great questions!
So what’s the answer??
One parent replies:
The information you are looking for would be in the book “The Power of RNA’s” and if it’s not there then you should attempt to do a search on it. For example “RNA AND degrade”. Continue add words to your search with AND in between and you might find some discussion on it. I believe Dr. Amy had discussed that some of the information on RNA’s that you have in mind was from the 1970′s and since that time some of that “science” is no longer applicable.
RNA degredation, no longer applicable?????
Natural RNA is indeed very fragile and easily degraded. According to the book “Power of RNA,” a technology called antisense has been developed by pharmaceuticals, and this technology stabilizes the RNA significantly. The book uses the analogy of glue holding a string of beads together. Although the book gave a layman’s descrition of antisense, it did not really explain it in detail. It also did not clearly state whether the same technology is used for Longevity RNA or if another technology is used.
I did not get a satisfactory answer for how the RNA crosses the cell membrane after reading the book. I did skim parts, so it is possible I missed it.
Antisense stabilizing the RNA? OK maybe this parent is just misreading the document. Maybe they’re just clueless. But if you keep reading the website (autismanswer.com) you never get an explanation. Only parents that are wowed by the incredible placebo effect (that some water and degraded RNA provide), and some “experts” replying with platitudes.
So whose company is this? It’s headed by Dr Amy Yasko … I’ve never heard of her. I searched “Yasko_A” on PubMed and I got 56 hits … all for Allan W Yasko … but no Amy.
And this is not the only company … there is a separate one in China doing the same thing.
I just can’t believe that these guys are getting away with this.