Autism Complementary and alternative medicine Pseudoscience Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Another cell therapy quackery for autism rears its ugly head

Many are the forms of quackery to which autistic children are subjected to. It’s amazing just how many dubious and dangerous treatments (dubbed “biomedical treatments” or “autism biomed”) parents will try in an effort to “recover” their children. Perhaps the most shocking of this quackery that I’ve recently covered is something called “miracle mineral solution” (MMS), which is in reality nothing more than a powerful bleach. Parents make their autistic children drink diluted MMS, bathe in it, and even take bleach as an enema. They try to claim that what they are using is no more powerful than tap water, but in fact the doses involved are much higher than that, high enough to cause symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea. I don’t want to revisit MMS (at least not today), but I do want to revisit another form of autism quackery that I haven’t dealt with in a while. I’m referring to stem cell quackery.

You might remember that three years ago the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism featured a post by Kent Heckenlively in which he described spending $15,000 to take his daughter to Costa Rica to undergo “stem cell therapy” that involved injecting the cells directly into her cerebrospinal fluid. Heckenlively admitted that, as far as he can tell, the stem cells did no good, but that didn’t stop him from seeking out many and varied additional forms of quackery. I hadn’t heard about stem cell therapy (which almost certainly contains no real stem cells)—until a couple of days ago, when some readers forwarded this article from the Philippines entitled Stem Cell Therapy: Cure For Autism?:

MANILA, Philippines — Parents of children with autism, or other developmental condition for that matter, go to great lengths to find a “cure’’ for their children. Even though these may not exist yet for most conditions, parents exhaust all possible means to look for ways to improve the lives of their children.

For some parents, the cost of these cures is of no question.

For instance, Janise Tang Piap immediately took charge of the situation upon learning that her son, Ethan, has autism. Janise turned to a battalion of doctors and therapists and even attended several conferences to understand her son’s condition and how to improve it.

“I took charge. I researched, I attended conferences. I was like a mad scientist,” she recalls. “Of course, the more important thing for a parent is to accept the fact that your child does have disability before you take charge.”

“Mad scientist”? That’s about right, except that this parent is no “scientist.” She thinks she knows what she is talking about, but she doesn’t. Her knowledge is clearly superficial at best. One wonders what the “conferences” were that she attended. Autism One, perhaps? In any case, as is all too often the case, Piap found a “stem cell clinic” in Germany, Villa Medica. It’s not exactly stem cell therapy, though, although it most definitely takes advantage of public interest in stem cells and their scientific promise in order to sell a product. Basically, what this “therapy” involves is injecting cells from animals, usually sheep:

Ethan underwent what is called Fresh Cell Therapy, a biological treatment by which specially selected fresh or live cells or cell extracts of donor animals, usually sheep, are injected into the human body for treatment of various ailments or rejuvenation purpose.

The procedure uses fresh cells from the fetus of a lamb and takes not more than three hours from harvesting to production to injection of the cells to the patient. All procedures are done in their clinic in Germany.

“In principle, fresh cell therapy, the injectable form, is the mother of all stem cell treatments. The sense of every fresh cell therapy is to rebuild something in the body,” explains Villa Medica medical director Dr. Geoffrey Huertgen, who was recently in Manila.

The immune system of the body serves as the “communicator” which delivers the cells to the organs and tissues that need rebuilding.

“As long as there is an intact immune system, we can treat. Acute cancer cannot be treated. We are treating HIV patients but we are not treating AIDS patients,” Dr. Huertgen explains.

Unlike autologous stem cell transplant, in which blood-forming stem cells are removed, stored, and later given back to the same person, fresh cell therapy is non-invasive and is only injected to the body.

It is also organ-specific, unlike most stem cell treatments. They inject cells that are harvested in a specific organ that will help rebuild the same organ of the patient.

This is utter nonsense, pure pseudoscience, and it’s a complete mischaracterization to claim that this has anything to do with anything resembling real stem cell therapy. For one thing, there is no good reason to think that, even if this clinic is isolating real stem cells from lamb fetuses, these stem cells would do anything whatsoever in humans. Species barriers are not trivial to overcome. If they were, xenotransplantation would not be a major problem. Particularly wrong is the way that Dr. Huertgen claims that an intact immune system is needed because the immune system delivers the cells to the organs and tissues that “need rebuilding.” In reality, the immune cells are far more likely to destroy the lamb cells because they are from a different species than they are to “communicate” or deliver anything to anywhere.

I was particularly interested in the claim that they inject cells harvested from a specific organ in order to help rebuild that same organ in the patient. So I went to the Villa Medical website, and, through the wonder of Google Translate, got the gist of what was being claimed, in particular from this page. On this page, Dr. Huertgen claims that his therapy is based on 5,000 year old knowledge (yes, the classic appeal to antiquity—or should I say, antiquated knowledge?) stating that “heart heals the heart” and the “like cures like.”

Yes, it sounds as though Dr. Huertgen has been mixing homeopathy with his dubious stem cell therapy.

He goes on to claim that Villa Medica selects individual organ-specific combinations of “live cells” in the “context of patient-specific physical symptoms,” labeling his “fresh live cells” as being “holistic” (of course!). He also uses language that, even through the imperfect abilities of Google Translate, vitalistic in nature. He refers to the “focre of the cell” and the “energy of the cell juices” being able to “penetrate mind, body, and soul.” Elsewhere, Dr. Huertgen refers to harvesting sheep fetuses in the final stages of their development, justifying their use because embryos and fetuses are immunologically privileged such that the mother’s immune system doesn’t attack it, seemingly forgetting that, just because the fetus isn’t attacked by its mother’s immune system does not mean that a trans-species injection of cells from various organs in the fetus will not be attacked by the immune system. In any case, the logistics of this procedure involve suspending the cells in a “nature-friendly,” “body-friendly” solution and then injected intramuscularly.

Particularly amusing is the part where Dr. Huertgen brags about how his therapy is not the same thing as other forms of “live cell therapy” because his cells are, you know, actually alive. Whether this is true or not, who knows? Who cares? It’s irrelevant. In actuality, the entire rationale behind this therapy is vitalism gussied up with science-y terms to make it sound as though it’s not vitalism. However, when you strip away all the obfuscation, what you have is a therapy that in essence claims to infuse the patient with the vital force that comes from the animal organs. The only difference is that, instead of using lyophilized or frozen organ extracts, Dr. Huertgen uses freshly harvested cells that might or not be alive. Both therapies are equally ridiculous, and in the end Dr. Huertgen’s therapy is just another variant of a very old form of quackery. The only good thing I can say about it is that it’s probably not as dangerous as injecting biological material of unknown derivation directly into a child’s cerebrospinal fluid.

It’s not just for autism, however (of course). Villa Medica is primarily known for its antiaging woo, as this video demonstrates:

This propaganda video is packed with pure pseudoscience, quack buzzwords like “strengthening the immune system,” “restoring vitality,” and the like, all peppered with vague and medically meaningless jargon that would sound a lot more impressive if it weren’t done in an artificial computer voice with an exceedingly creepy sound to it. Be that as it may, if you look at it carefully, however, it becomes apparent that it means nothing. It even has a back story, in which it is claimed that this therapy was first invented by a surgeon named Prof. Dr. Paul Niehans in 1931, complete with a testimonial, and, in fact, a Google search quickly revealed that there exists a Swiss clinic named after Niehans providing—you guessed it!—live cell therapy. The video even claims that the idea for this therapy dates back to Paracelsus, 500 years ago, with the principle of “like cures like.”

So back to Piap. So what happened to her child? Well, as is the case with these sorts of testimonials, Piap thinks her son is much better:

“It took about one or two minutes. The first procedure took seven injections but my son is actually used to injections. He gets vitamin B12 injections in the bum and he gets glutathione injection treatment every week so he is used to it. I was so happy that it was so fast and I don’t think he remembered it because when we went back the second time, he was fine. Normally, when he goes to a place where he has had a bad memory or traumatic memory, he wouldn’t go again,” Janise shares.

After about two weeks from the first procedure, they noticed something different in Ethan. He suddenly spoke spontaneously, something that he was not able to do before. More, bigger improvements were then observed.

It is, of course, incredibly unlikely that this change is due to the “stem cell therapy” (or the “live cell therapy” or “fresh cell therapy” or whatever Dr. Huertgen wants to call it). Correlation does not equal causation, and Piap continues to subject her to numerous forms of quackery. Of course, in most other ways, her son is unchanged, but Dr. Huertgen has a ready excuse for that, namely the old “every child with autism is different” gambit. He also points out that he thinks he has to treat for five to ten years for autism, at least until the child reaches puberty. One can see how he could extract maximum greenery from gullible parents this way. He also uses the typical excuse of practitioners peddling unproven therapies:

“What we’re seeing at the moment, eight out of 10 are getting better. This for me is the big proof. If you ask me for a scientific paper, if you ask placebo controlled study, we can, but we have not the money. We don’t have $15 to 20 million to create the study but we can show is best cases,” Dr. Huertgen adds.

He also says that for the last 50 years they have been doing the treatment since they started the clinic back in 1960s and has served more than 100,000 patients. There are already thousands of studies and clinical trials on fresh cell therapy but most of them are in German. The clinic is licensed by the German government to do fresh cell therapy, even as stem cell treatments are banned in most countries.

Yep, we charge tons of money to do the therapy but we can’t do clinical trials because we don’t have the money. We’re too busy using it to buy our Mercedes, vacation houses, and building our satellite clinics in Thailand. But we really, really assure you that we have the results. Trust us. Of course, even though Dr. Huertgen claims he has “the best cases,” I don’t see any of them. I wonder where they are and how they did.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this article is not so much the level of pseudoscience and quackery behind this “fresh cell therapy.” Yes, it’s very disturbing that autistic children are being subjected to this quackery, but we’ve seen cases as bad or worse before, including Kent Heckenlively’s daughter. Such cases are horrible to read about. What disturbs me at least as much, however, is the claim that the clinic is licensed by the German government to administer this quackery and has let this clinic continue to operate for decades to over 100,000 patients. It’s not as though this is the first clinic peddling this sort of quackery in Germany. Last year, it took the death of a child and serious complications in another to shut down a clinic offering bogus stem cell therapies.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

93 replies on “Another cell therapy quackery for autism rears its ugly head”

Always the same – “taking charge” and “going abroad”. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad. Brits go to the US, Americans go to Mexico, Filipinos go to Germany, and I’d not be surprised if the Germans found some “clinic in South Asia”.

The more dramatic the intervention, the more effort that was invested, the better.

Wishful thinking at its best.

Orac, I’m back to reading your excellent blog after a long hiatus and I see that recently you treated the subject of lobotomy, my pet medical obsession. (I’m drawing a comic book about it!) There is a sad parallel, I think, between some parents of autistic children now and some families of the mentally ill back when lobotomy was the hotness. Specifically, I’m reminded of one hospital director who refused to allow lobotomy to be performed on his patients. His reasoning was that the patients themselves, being mentally ill, couldn’t meaningfully consent to such a drastic procedure; that left their immediate families, the people those patients’ illnesses had burdened the most. Dr. White said that these spouses and parents couldn’t be trusted to act in the best interest of patients they resented so much for disrupting their lives. He even suggested that they might, even if they didn’t realize it consciously, be hoping that the operation would be fatal (as indeed it sometimes was). The extent to which some parents are willing to torment their children with bogus medical treatments makes me suspect that some of them are motivated by resentment rather than love.

@Eyeteeth – I believe it is something like, “well, just one more treatment & I’ll get my little Johnny back again.” See, a lot of these parents are angry, very angry – they feel like their children were stolen from there & what is left is nothing but an empty husk, a burden. Dehumanizing their child makes it easier to expose them to all forms of quackery and abuse, because, you know, it really isn’t their child anymore.

This is borne out with the constant referrals to “recovering” children with autism – because their child was “lost” therefore they are justified in applying whatever is necessary to “recover” them. If the child comes back, great – if not, well, it still isn’t there child anyway, right?

Irony meetings exploding all around with the “injections of animal cells” stuff – isn’t that one of the big complaints of the anti-vax crowd regarding vaccines?

I would love to see at least one of these quack / abusive treatments disowned by the anti-vax crowd, but if MMS still gets the green light, I don’t leave out a lot of hope that it will ever change.

embryos and fetuses are immunologically privileged such that the mother’s immune system doesn’t attack it
Rhesus disease is a myth!!

Villa Medica is primarily known for its antiaging woo, as this video demonstrates:

Back in 1970, all the best Teutonic anti-aging clinics were using pineal-gland extracts:

It even has a back story, in which it is claimed that this therapy was first invented by a surgeon named Prof. Dr. Paul Niehans in 1931, complete with a testimonial, and, in fact, a Google search quickly revealed that there exists a Swiss clinic named after Niehans providing—you guessed it!—live cell therapy.

And in 1920 Dr Voronoff started offering live monkey-testicle implants, with much the same rationale. Progress!

Unfortunatly, the laws here in Germany are rather woo-friendly. I blame the time our green-party was in power, which is basicly a political pool for everything anti-science. For example, one can’t find a health insurance company that doesn’t also support homeopathy because they are legaly bound to provide that “option” to everyone (I tried to get one, trust me, it’s not possible).

I looked at the Impressum of their website and found the regulation under which this thing is licensed:

It’s a laugh, really. All it says is that as long as your clinic doesn’t pose a danger to the health and livelihood of the people around it you can’t be denied a license.

Regulation for woo is incredibly lax in Germany and it always has been. As long as his ‘therapy’ doesn’t kill anyone nothing will be done about it.

It’s disgusting.

I had a look at the clinic´s website and browsed through their “scientific” explanations. I am a German native speaker, and believe me, if Google Translate can´t make sense out of it, then it is not Google Translate´s fault.

For example, you Orac (and all of science & medicine) are obviously wrong, because they explicitly state that

“Bei der Implantation von xenogenem Gewebe besteht keine Artspezifität, sondern eine Organspezifität. Daher ist eine ethisch kaum vertretbare Transplantation von menschlichem, embryonalen Gewebe nicht indiziert. Denn xenogenes (von einem artfremden Individuum stammendes) Gewebe besitzt die gleiche Organspezifität und hat damit die gleiche Wirkung. Die Zellen des Tieres setzen sich passgenau an die Zellen des Menschen, vor allem an die erkrankten Zellen.”
Translation: „ For the implantation of xenogenic tissue exist no species specificity but an organ specificity. Therefore transplantation of human embryonic tissue is hardly ethically justified. Because xenogenic (derived from an individual of a different species) tissue has the same organ specificity and therefore the same effect. The cells of the animal arrange themselves fittingly onto the cells of the human, especially onto the ill cells.”

The website gives then some “citations” to back up their claims but those are not proper Pubmed ones that could be checked but plain name dropping, aka “Prof. Dr. X from the University of Y said in a newspaper interview…” and partially they are even clearly misleading. For example the Nobel Prize winner Guenther Blobel is mentioned and his research into signal peptides that guide proteins to their targets is seen as a proof of the clinic´s cell therapy approach. I wonder if Prof Blobel would be happy about this connection…

And – in my opinion – the Grand Finale:

“ Das, was durch die Zelltherapie im menschlichen Körper geschieht, darzustellen, ist im Bereich der alternativen Behandlungen aus rechtlichen Gründen sehr schwierig. Oftmals ist es aber auch nicht notwendig, denn unsere Patienten kehren immer wieder zu uns zurück. Wir können lediglich Grundsätze der Therapie beschreiben, aber keinerlei Erfolge benennen und auch keine Wirkungen bei den mittlerweile mehr als 100.000 behandelten Zelltherapie-Patienten der letzten 40 Jahre.“
Translation: „It is difficult for jurisdictional reasons to describe what happens in the human body during cell therapy in the context of alternative treatment. Often this isn´t necessary though because our patients always come back to us. We can only describe the basics of the therapy but can´t name any success and also no effects for the up to now 100000 treated cell therapy patients during the last 40 years.”

You don´t find very often such (accidental) honesty in the realm of quacks.

‘Our patients always come back to us.’

I bet they do. Because if the treatment worked, they wouldn’t need to continue it, would they?

@StrangerInAStrangeLand – I have to wonder if the last part is a German-version “quack miranda warning” – i.e., we cannot make any claims about what this actually does?

~shakes head~

I am very likely the least educated regular reader of this blog and my first thought when I read that these were animals cells was, “But the immune system would just get rid of them all?” followed by, “Wouldn’t that make the child sick?”

After all, you can get sick from the wrong blood transfusion, you can get sick from organ transplants (so the immune system is usually suppressed to avoid graft vs. host disease).

What kind of person would waste money on this? Even if you’re desperate to “recover” your child you would at least want the treatment to pretend to make some kind of sense?

Oh. Wait. MMS. Stem cells being directly injected into CSF. Lupron. Chelation.

Never mind.

@Mrs Woo
I think you are right with your “quack miranda warning” as they mention “legal reasons” for it. Still this paragraph is such a beauty with it´s involuntary truth, you have to admire it. 🙂

Yes, it is. “We haven’t cured anyone in 100,000 patients, but we’re still very happy to treat you.” 😉

As an autistic (Aspie to be exact), I prefer my sheep cells to be a wee bit older – and preferably cooked and served with mint jelly. 😉

This is just another waste of money – and meat.

The judicial reason they quote is simple – German doctors are not allowed to advertise. So making statements that cannot be proven scientifically would quickly be considered advertising for their services, and they lose their license. Same rule applies to lawyers btw. As Germany used to rather strict in the regulation of OTC drugs, going to the “Reformhaus”, what we might call a holistic drug store, was often the first step to do. But then, a homeopathic ointment is about as effective for your average viral chest cold as the full course of antibiotics a US doctor will prescribe, and probably cheaper.

Germany — where men are men and sheep are nervous?

(sorry, couldn’t resist that).

I thought I had found a place at that did this in California, but that is their mailing address. They also have a US phone number, but the first number listed on their website has an area code and dialing instructions for Tijuana. So there are closer places for US parents of autistics to take their innocent child to for more torture er, um, “treatment.”

Well, what do you know. Stories like this can apparently come from my home country, too. Shame on the Manila Bulletin for publishing this nonsense.

Perhaps Herr Dr H can teamup with that bone-marrow guy, Fudenberger.

On the other hand, while I have *yet* to hear of any woo associated with it ( but I’m sure it’s out there- in both senses of the term), plants have stems cells, too. An expensive cosmetics company already utilises them as a skin care product to combat signs of aging.

Given that woo-meisters often worship the miraculous healing powers of plants and analogise their burgeoning mysterious powers of growth to human healing … this is prime territory in which they can stake a claim.

Certain trees lives for a very long time ( Bristlecone Pine and Sequoia) so if you were hawking longevity formulae, you might want to include a bit of their essence.

Others are attractive and smooth, so like the aforementiioned costemics company, you might include their essence to rejuvenate signs of aging.

The possibilities are nearly endless and woo-meisters already claim curative powers for particular plants so this is a way to ramp that up to the nth power.

It’s easier than dealing with sheep, too.

I “discovered” that AoA had a top banner ad up on their website a few weeks ago…and I mentioned it on one of my posts here at RI. Within a few short days that ad was taken down.

This, “Stem Cell Institute” in Arizona is the one I believe, that had a paid advertisement at AoA:

So, have your “pick” of treatment options folks; IV infusions of stems cells or the *combination* of IV and intrathecal infusions. You need to schlep your autistic child to Arizona, for an examination, first pony-up the fees (up to $30,000), before you take your child to Panama for the *treatment*.

IIRC, Heckenlively borrowed the cash for the stem cell *treatment* for his daughter from his in-laws. BTW, Heckenlively is a full-time public school science teacher and a part-time lawyer. Wouldn’t you think that Heckenlively has the *credentials* to understand that the treatment is bogus…and that subjecting his daughter to this *treatment* is child abuse?

Weeding through the entries for skin care I found these:

@Denice Walter

plants have stems cells, too

Well, duh – most plants have stems.

@ Militant Agnostic:

But seriously, if you were a woo brave maverick scientist would you rather be harvesting stem cells from sheep or violets?

Is anyone else reminded of how they used to implant goat testicles to treat low libido?

Shay, that’s Scotland. Men being men is frowned upon in Germany, for comparison, just think that San Francisco would be a conservative city in Germany.

I like this line: “Unlike autologous stem cell transplant, in which blood-forming stem cells are removed, stored, and later given back to the same person, fresh cell therapy is non-invasive and is only injected to the body.”

Apparently REMOVING things is invasive. INJECTING them is not.

Also, the thought of some insane “doctor” injecting anything into my child, especially her CSF, makes me sick to my stomach. And you know any resulting meningitis means “it’s working.” What these parents are putting their children through sure looks an awful lot like what happens in horror films.

Are this the same people complaining about all kinds of stuff in vaccins? We have problems with minuscule amounts of chemicals in vaccins, but we don’t mind giving our children bleach and bleach enemas to cure them. We complain about animal cells in vaccins, but we don’t mind injecting animal cells in our children, to cure them, although there is no evidence it does something.

If you give your autisitic child bleach enema’s or chelate him or pay to have him injected with sheep cells or whatever, at least you’re doing something to ‘recover’ him.
It doesn’t matter that there’s there’s no reason to think what you’re doing will work, since it’s really about being able to keep telling yourself “I’m doing all that I can!”

Yeah a vaccine IM injection = evil of all evils
3 hour old fetal lamb balls injected into spine = miracle cure, huzzah

Don’t you see? This is all part of the plot to create a superspecies – a human-sheep hybrid. Blessed by science with a thick, woolly coat and natural lanolin, the new “sheeple” will fear nothing except, perhaps, foxes, wolves, and certain other natural predators. They will also be known to lie down with lions.

I, for one, welcome our new ovine overlords.

M O’B: I don’t!

One of them kicked me in the arm when I was trying to trim her hooves.

The “T” person quoted in the Nerditorial article is scarily illiterate, even for an off-the-record spokesperson. As far as I’m concerned, that alone should raise a big red flag: If that’s the calibre and quality of the support staff they attract, what’s to say the rest of their staff are any better?

And the Nerditorial article, The Stem Cell Business: The X-Cell Centre, was written by our Autismum.

I first became involved with stem cell donation…years ago, when my developmentally disabled son developed pancytopenia, which included ITP (Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura).

I became a platelet donator and I underwent many platelet apheresis procedures:

After undergoing my first platelet apheresis donation, I was asked to fill out a form to have my HLA typed to be put on the registry to become a bone marrow stem cell donor:

BTW, I *know* the Nerditorial science blogger and I am in awe of her skills to report on autism, the bogus vaccine-autism link and the utterly dreadful *procedures* that credulous parents subject their autistic children to undergo.

Eyeteeth: The extent to which some parents are willing to torment their children with bogus medical treatments makes me suspect that some of them are motivated by resentment rather than love.

I’ve been suspecting that too. As Lawrence says, many parents feel that recovering their child by any means neccessary is more important then giving the child actual help. It never seems to occur to them that autistic children are human children. I put that badly, but I think everyone here will get what I meant.
(If my posting seems a little incoherent lately, it’s because I am stuck in a heat wave.)

Politicalguineapig: This talk of “recovery,” now that you guys mention it, is a lot like the old story of changelings. Wasn’t the idea that fairies sometimes swapped babies with humans, just for laughs? You’d go to bed with a perfectly normal baby and wake up with this other creature that looked like your baby but *wasn’t.* The similarity to the antivaxxer narrative makes me wonder if this wasn’t sometimes an attempt to explain autism spectrum disorders.

@PoliticalGuineaPig – you too? Our swimming pool has now exceeded bathwater temperature by a good margin and I have to regularly replace water for the chickens so they will drink it (anything over 101/2 somewhere they won’t) so they won’t die of heat exhaustion. At this point they are kind of doing a moaning thing as they pant, poor things.

I think most of us agree that consistent dehumanization of autistic children is a common part of the “recovery” effort. I can’t understand how any mother could think a disability affects her child’s status as a human being. It doesn’t make sense to my head or my heart.

I think, like it is with many issues that don’t have easy fixes, desperate people end up being “sure” that there is a “real cure/fix out there.” With the internet these days it is much easier to find dubious information. I’ve watched Mr Woo do it with my illness because there aren’t a lot of treatments. They don’t want to hear that it will be years of therapy and intervention and that the child might never be normal. Worse, since they aren’t noticing earlier signs of the child’s slow development, they cannot be convinced that there wasn’t an outright cause that happened at one moment in time, and with the cause chosen, there obviously has to be a way to reverse it, as though it is some kind of magic…

@Mu, don’t you mean Wyoming?

How can it be ok to inject fetal cells to “treat” autism when we’ve all been told injecting fetal cells “causes” autism? There’s a whole lot of hypocrisy going on…

About “changelings”:

Let’s be honest, many people, even those with a modicum of real world education in so-called modern, industrialised
societies, have unrealistic notions about life in general as well as about children and their development. After drinking in idealised fictions about families and parenthood, viewed through the soft-focus lens of movies and commercials, they plan for the perfect child, wishing to be perfect parents. Suddenly, the infant, for whom they had created such extravagant plans, isn’t developing along the standard pathway as articulated by parental guides.

When eventually the news is broken by a physician, he or she being the messenger, is now associated with bad fortune and prompty ‘shot’. Parents are more vulnerable to woo that demonises medical professionals and pharmaceuticals: this is nothing new, I can quote you anti-vaccination lit from the 1950s compiled by a popular health magazine.

Parents can be unrealistic about the liklihood of disability and the association between various psychological and developmental conditions and genetics. Perhaps they have a simplified stereotype about mental retardation and a specific appearance. During the first year or so, they convince themselves that there is nothing wrong, even though there many be early warning signals. The child who was “stolen” by faeries or “destroyed” by SBM never existed.
It was merely an idealised vehicle for unrealistic hopes.

If their concepts about their child are not based in reality, TO BEGIN WITH, is it likely that their ideas about causation and “cures” of the condition will be? It’s emotionally-fuelled story-telling.

I don’t think that this is really any different from standard woo that aims at curing cancer, HIV/AIDS, high bp or whatever else ails ye: the idealised self doesn’t get cancer or HIV/AIDS or any serious problem and revelation about these are shocking as well. The only difference is that rather than using woo to fix themsleves to match their inner image, it’s aimed at a child.

herr doktor bimler wrote “In NZ we also have the Icebreaker advertisements.”

Funny how their blurb studiously avoids any mention of the naked woman on the beast’s back. Ha.

On topic: the “science” justification is terrible. I wonder if they can be had for false advertising via the false claims “supporting” their product – ?

Back off-topic: My recent trip to Europe saw far too many pharmacies with homeopathy right on the street signs advertising the stores. They might as well write “we sell fake medicine too (and are happy to take your money for it)”.

their blurb studiously avoids any mention of the naked woman on the beast’s back.

I will have to check to be sure, but I believe our pharmacy sells homeopathic preparations here in the US (and a large selection of various supplements, etc.).

Herr Doktor – the thought of people riding merinos always brings to mind Bored of the Rings.

Sheepmilker – I trust you won’t end up “sleeping with the mint jelly”, if you know what I mean.

herr doktor bimler – Hahaha. I’m sure they (the blurb writers) didn’t either 😉

Mts Woo – pharmacies in NZ sell homeopathic remedies too (I’ve written on this topic on my blog), but you’d be hard pressed to find one that paints “Homeopathy” right on the street front over their door like those I’ve seen in Europe. (You know, the big signs giving the name of the shop and what it sells.)

I don’t recall seeing any homeopathic crap for sale at the pharmacies in DK, I know there’s a full range of vitamins for sale – I’ll have to take a closer peek and see if there’s any woo available to complain about.

@ Grant:

Odd that you should report that! According to ANH, all natural health modalities are threatened ! It’s only a matter of time before supplements, herbs and homeopathic remedies, as well as alternative practitioners, are outlawed : first the EU, then N. America and AUS / NZ – all swept under an overwhelming tsunami of governmental regulatory oppression!

Or so they tell me.

Uh huh Denice… look at how well they’ve done so far regulating those industries… they make tons of money and put it in lawmakers’ pockets. And they think “Big Pharma” is corrupt…

Denice Walter,

“Odd that you should report that!” Why? It’s just what I observed.

“are outlawed” – wasn’t it that governments (etc.) are not trying to outlaw these products but bring them under regulatory control. Isn’t the “outlawing” line bleating from that industry? (Damn, the references to sheep earlier must be getting to me!)

@ Grant:

ANH – in all of its multi-continental splendor- has been amongst my targets for a long time. During these many years, they keep on telling us how the Government/s is/are ON THE BRINK of taking away or prying our cherished supplements from our cold dead hands ( -btw- how DOES that line go?), making herbs difficult to access and other atrocities. None of which ever seems to occur.
I usually designate sarcasm by saying “OMFG!” or suchlike Perhaps I should have done so.

If they repeatedly inject the child with fetal lamb cells, they run the risk of triggering some nasty allergic reactions.

@ Grant: That shooting of healthcare workers trying to immunize kids against polio in Pakistan…is terrible.

Re: government regulatory suppression, there have been some rather sensible changes in what can legally be sold in the way of supplements etc. in the UK, but it doesn’t seem to be enforced. I think I’m right in saying that colloidal silver can’t be sold legally in the UK for human consumption any more, but it’s still on the shelf in my local health food store. I did mention it to the owner, but he’s such a nice chap I haven’t the heart to report him to anyone, and hopefully a small bottle of 5 ppm silver isn’t going to turn anyone into a smurf.

From what I understand, Krebiozen, it takes its toll long-term. An occasional user will not have any issues, but someone who uses it daily over a period of time will slowly turn a lovely shade of grayish-blue. So it depends on what the person purchasing it is using it for.

They also sell (have no idea if they really work) do-it-yourself machines to do colloidal silver in water. One of those dubious devices that I would be much happier if they were lights and nothing vs. actually functional.

@ lilady:

Ha! And here I was thinking that it was a line from a Clint Eastwood film! Oooh, that makes it even worse!

That shooting of healthcare workers trying to immunize kids against polio in Pakistan…is terrible.

Particularly given that the vaccine connection per se is rather tenuous.

“Ethan underwent what is called Fresh Cell Therapy, a biological treatment by which specially selected fresh or live cells or cell extracts of donor animals, usually sheep, are injected into the human body for treatment of various ailments or rejuvenation purpose.”

Wonder if the parents who go for this “therapy” think about the possibility of disease transmission from the donor animals. For instance, scrapie in sheep is not unknown in Germany:


Foreign DNA and other “toxins” in vaccines – very bad. Foreign DNA and possible pathogens in animal products injected into children with no evidence of clinical effectiveness – wonderful.

This sounds like an origin story for a new superhero: LAMB-MAN!
Lamb man, lamb man
Does whatever a lamb can
Skips around looking cute
White and fluffy, what a hoot!
Awwwww, here comes lamb man!

@ Grant
July 25, 12:01 pm

Off-topic (but of interest [or rather, concern], I hope): Polio vaccine workers being shot at in Pakistan

Yes the Taliban have been threatening this for weeks. I cannot recall exactly what they are demanding but it is a cynical move that is endangering their own children.

On the other hand, maybe having the CIA run a fake vaccination campaign has made them a bit cynical.


Yes the Taliban have been threatening this for weeks. I cannot recall exactly what they are demanding but it is a cynical move that is endangering their own children.

They want an end to drone attacks. There is a fear that the vaccination campaign is gathering targeting information for drones.

I just. . oh, goodness, the idea that people are paying all that money to inject themselves and their kids with SHEEP BRAINS. . .it’s too ironic. If it worked, they’d be cured already.

Someone once asked if I had sheep for brains. I always wondered if I misheard.

~giggles at Mephistopheles O’Brien~

Now we know why they wondered – you have “ageless” brains, apparently!


I see that tonight the CBC.has a programme about autism, looking at it from the gut bacteria angle.

“This content is currently only available in Canada.”

My cell phone used to work just fine in Vancouver, BC. Now the signal dies just a few meters after passing the border. We had to buy new phones at a Richmond, BC strip mall.

Stupid international borders!

Don’t you know we have relatives on your side of the border! (So screams the woman married to an ex-Canadian, Come on! My in-laws are awesome. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Though I was slightly amused when the US Border Guard told my uber-cool teenage daughter to loose the sunglasses.)

@ Grant July 24, 9:44 pm

I work in West Auckland, and there is a pharmacy on a main road not 2km from here with a great big yellow HOMEOPATHY sign above the door. My colleagues refuse to go there (and we work in a completely unrelated industry).

I am particularly interested in autism quackery as I’m a parent of a boy with an ASD, but in my work as a medical writer have also delved into cancer quackery lately. I have noticed that these charlatans always claim an 80% cure rate! I’m guessing it’s a figure that sounds really impressive but not unbelievable even to the lay person, and conveniently excuses away the brave folk prepared to admit they’ve received no benefit from treatment. (As opposed to the 100% who actually get no benefit).

Hey Orac,
If you don’t have a child with Autism then you better keep your options to yourself. God forbid the day you have a child with special needs. Let’s see what great lengths you go to to help your child. Obvioulsly you are not a parent.
You can talk you opinions and shove it up your #%^^£><!

Hey, YVRmom, you have obviously never had a child injured by a real disease. Until you have experienced having to call for emergency services, riding in an ambulance with your child and multiple hospital stays, you better keep your opinions to yourself.

See how that works?

@ Chris:

I don’t know, but somehow I seem to recall having heard that ” if you don’t have children/ children with ASD/ children with etc….” meme around someplace, maybe I read it somewhere or it might possibly have been addressed to me .. Hmmm.
Oh, I’ll remember..

YVRmom – If you haven’t had a child injected with sheep cells you better keep your opinions to yourself….

Hey, that’s fun!

I never understood why you would have be in a special class of parent in order to comment that turning kids into lab experiments is a bad thing. My son has had enough things done to him that were actually medically necessary, that I am not going to risk his health on utter nonsense.

Do you think YVRmom read the last sentence in the article: “Last year, it took the death of a child and serious complications in another to shut down a clinic offering bogus stem cell therapies.”

Uh, huh. Oh, yeah. That is a ringing endorsement of sticking random sheep cells in a kid. Wait when they start growing tumors, and then the child will need all sorts of treatment.

“Hey Orac,
If you don’t have a child with Autism then you better keep your options to yourself.”

If you really had a child with autism, you’d be furious at the quacks trying to sell fraudelent “cures” and not at the doctors that are trying warn parents. Hope that helps.


I work near VGH and the BCCA. I’d be happy to show you the difference between a desperate patient and a treatment or treating facility. A criticism of one is not a criticism of the other. They are two different things.


I had a developmentally child with autistic-like behaviors. He also was REALLY immune suppressed (leukopenia). He only survived for 28 years because he was fully vaccinated. So, don’t pull that martyr shtick with me.

Perhaps in your circle of anti-vaccine cronies you think being the parent of a special needs child gives you *special insight* and free reign to insult our esteemed host of this blog…it doesn’t. Take your insults and your #%^^£>< elsewhere.

Hey Orac,
If you don’t have a child with Autism then you better keep your options to yourself. God forbid the day you have a child with special needs. Let’s see what great lengths you go to to help your child. Obvioulsly you are not a parent.
You can talk you opinions and shove it up your #%^^£><!

And this person deems themselves qualified to evaluated stem cell quackery for their child? These poor children; they deserve so much better.

Orac. You sound like tom cruise during his rant on the todays show with matt lauer a few years ago. I am guessing you either missed taking your medication for a few days or you were neglected as a child. Your quest for attention is pathetic. Are you a medical doctor? I ask because you sound as ignorant as they come. Im sure you will have a smart a$$ reply to my comments but i would expect that from someone who has a pu$$y for a mouth.

Jeff, I’m going to reply to all the claims in your comment that have even a shred of substance to them:

There, done.

Wow Jeff – I am astounded by your insightful and evidence-filled response……oh, wait……LOL


It’s interesting for you to highlight the desperation of a parent to help their autistic child. And while their are desperate parents their will always be people who’d take advantage of them. Pity really, the parents suffer enough already.

There was one point I noticed that i thought was good of the Mother and that was the injecting of B12 and Glutathione. Glutathione is now available in capsule form. Cell Gevity, a product that provides the required building blocks for the production of Glutathione, is the best and most efficient way to increase your Glutathione levels. ({Visit {} for more information}). Increasing your glutathione levels in your Autistic childs’ diet will provide varied benefits such as, calming the child down, slowing and or stopping the fits, improving communication the list can go on. If you talk to a parent who’s given their child Glutathione you’d see a proud parent and a happier child.

Refer to my blog at ( ) for more information on glutathione and the benefits it has for ASD’s.

Wow, Jeff. You have a great future as a biomedical blogger – you’re as well-informed and well-spoken as the best of them.

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