[SaneVax: Dr. Paul Offit, infectious disease specialist, vaccine developer and patent holder versus Dr. Ralph Steinman, award winning immunologist, cell biologist and Nobel Prize winner – who should one listen to when questions about autism and dendritic immunity arise?]
By Marcella Piper-Terry
Paul Offit is a controversial man. There are those who love him and those who revile him.
I just think he’s confused.
For a long time I have known that Dr. Offit, while he may be very good at developing and selling vaccines, does not appear to understand the workings of the brain. I don’t think we should really expect him to though. After all, he’s not a brain surgeon. He’s not even a neurologist. His field is vaccines. His specific field of interest and the one that has brought him a ton of money is diarrhea. That’s about as far from brain surgery as you can get, in my opinion. So maybe we should cut him some slack when he makes stupid statements like, “children can receive 10,000 vaccines in a single day.” If he doesn’t understand the brain and how it functions, chances are pretty good that he doesn’t understand the immune system either. He’s an infectious disease doc and a vaccine developer and patent holder. I think it’s safe to assume that Dr. Offit’s interests and research are pretty narrowly focused on those areas. That’s why it’s amazing to me that when he did his interview a while back, promoting his book and declaring that autism is the result of a problem with the synapse, he was actually correct – about the synapse part, anyway. Thing is… I don’t think he even knows what a synapse is, or how it works. Thankfully, there are people who do. Thankfully, there are also people who pursue the truth in research, not knowing where it will take them, and never receiving the recognition they deserve for their efforts. This post is dedicated to one of those scientists: Dr. Ralph Steinman. (I will get back to Dr. Offit, but first I have to give you some background information.)
This week has been a big one for numerous professionals who have been recognized for excellence in their work. These professionals are this year’s recipients of The Nobel Prize.
Sadly, one scientist who finally received this ultimate award was unable to claim his prize because he died three days before the announcement was made. Ralph Steinman was recognized posthumously for his 1973 discovery of the role dendritic cells play in immunity. As this article from Science Debate about Steinman and his discovery reports, the role of dendritic cells in immunity was given little attention until the 1990s. A 1998 article written by Steinman and Banchereau, published in the journal Nature, declared, “Dendritic cells in the periphery capture and process antigens, express lymphocyte co-stimulatory molecules, migrate to lymphoid organs and secrete cytokines to initiate immune responses. They not only activate lymphocytes, they also tolerize T cells to antigens that are innate to the body (self-antigens), thereby minimizing autoimmune reactions.”
In an online Science Debate article , published earlier this week (October 3, 2011), the author further explains, “Dendritic cells have the ability to initiate very strong immune responses. Therefore, dendritic cells play a very important role in infections and autoimmunity. These cells are present in virtually all tissues and are activated following “danger” signals.”