I’ve come across a couple of examples of autism quackery over the weekend, which have prompted me to write this post. I read about an offer of Patch Therapy from a homeopath. [Caution: the blog post I link to contains extracts from an email sent by someone claiming to understand quantum physics - and to be able to cure autism with homeopathy. Check with your doctor before reading this email if you suffer from high blood pressure.] I looked up patch therapy and found a site claiming to sell “aura patch therapy”. The website states that:
We were taught that the molecules that we administer to you, drugs, vitamins, hormones, co-factors, etc., “work” by binding to specific receptors on the cell membrane, triggering a change within the cell – a “drug” or biological effect. This is the structural matching paradigm [Note: if you're playing Bad Science Bingo, you can mark off "paradigm" now]. When you think about it, it makes sense for our cell membranes to have specific receptors for hormones, vitamins, and other “normal human” substances, but does it makes sense for our cells to have receptors for drugs? Why should Mother Nature or Evolution provide us with receptors for molecules that haven’t been invented yet?
OK, so how do drugs work then? Apparently: “Drugs work not by binding to the cell, but by getting close enough to the cell such that their resonance frequencies can be picked up and responded to.” As far as I’m aware, drugs tend to mimic natural substances and use receptors in the same way. As an example, morphine and related drugs act on or affect the same receptors in the brain used by endorphins. The Wikipedia page on Beta-Endorphin points out that:
It is an agonist of the opioid receptors, with evidence suggesting it serves as the endogenous ligand of the μ-opioid receptor, the same receptor to which the chemicals extracted from opium, such as morphine and codeine, have their analgesic and addictive effects (indeed, the μ-opioid receptor was named based on its most renowned ligand, morphine).
The Patch Therapy people seem to think that because it doesn’t make sense to them that synthetic substances would have a specific receptor in the human body, drugs must work by resonance frequencies. That simply does not follow (apart from anything else, an assumption that “A does not exist” does not imply that “B must therefore exist”). Patch Therapy may find the Merck manual useful here: Drug-Receptor Interactions. They might also find this example useful: “A number of drugs bind to the GABAA receptor. They bind at sites different from the spot where GABA itself binds…” GABA binds to the GABAA receptor, as the Patch Therapy vendors might expect, but there are synthetic drugs that bind to the same receptor at different sites. This example helped me to understand how the thinking of those selling Patch Therapy is flawed. I hope it may help them too. How do Patch Therapy salesmen think that drugs work?
Because vibrational exchange is the language, the mechanism, of our biochemistry and physiology, then it follows that giving you a therapeutic molecule would not be necessary, if we could instead give you the resonance frequency of that molecule.
So… Patch Therapy can transfer the resonance frequency of a molecule to a person? I’ve no idea how they propose to do that and I predict that they have no idea either. Using the physics of waves and vibrations to explain the effects of homeopathy has been done before. Never successfully, though – and probably never by an actual physicist. Which reminds me: “Why is it that people who probably can’t even differentiate exp(x), much less understand quantum theory, love to spout this nonsense? No doubt, as usual, it is a matter of making money out of the gullible. Surely they don’t really think it means something?” [DC on Quantum Bollocks.]
And what are the boys and girls from Patch Therapy selling?
Dr. Richard Hunt developed a system (Aura patch therapy) whereby specific frequencies could be impregnated into a skin patch. You wear the patch, the frequencies cross through your skin, and are then conducted along your “energetic” nervous system (accupoints, meridians, chakra, and nadi), from there to signal the cells of your body to carry out the activity for Autism Spectrum and other Brain disorders as “coded” by the frequency.
That final quote from those flogging Patch Therapy should have enabled some of you to complete your Bad Science Bingo cards. Meridians and chakras? These were invented to explain the purported mechanism(s) of acupuncture, reflexology, and reiki and thus make money for people practising Alternative Medicine. There is no reason to believe that they exist – not least because there is no reason to believe these Alternative therapies actually work. I was trying to work out what it meant for the frequency to “signal the cells of your body to carry out the activity for Autism Spectrum and other Brain disorders”, but I think it is in fact meaningless. It’s mumbo jumbo made up to sell worthless, useless patches. Link: Digital Homeopathy.
This is possibly worse. “Autism’s Causes And What You Can Do To Help Reverse It” is the title. It begins:
If you or a loved one has an autistic child, you are likely very educated on all sorts of theories about this terrible disease. [jdc: I seriously doubt the authors would have written this sentence if they were educated about autism.] You’ve been to dozens of doctors, read endless reports and researched until your brain hurts. So why should you read this one? Because…
Unlike doctors who tell you there’s nothing you can do, this report provides real hope and concrete steps you can take to reverse your child’s autism.
No, it doesn’t provide real hope – it provides false hope. These people don’t know better than doctors and the webpage seems to exist primarily to tout for business on behalf of online food supplement stores, EFT practitioners [Emotional Freedom Technique - it's endorsed by Deepak Chopra, which should ring alarm bells for those alert to woo.], an anti-GM website selling conspiracy theory DVDs and books. The recommendations on this page are to buy supplements costing from about$40 to around $100. It states “Using all of these products should take about 4 to 7 months to see huge improvement in, and hopefully a complete reversal of autism. This time may vary naturally.” It would cost over $400 for someone to order all the recommended supplements – money that could be spent on something worthwhile instead of on quack remedies.
The webshite goes on to state that:
You will learn how to improve, and perhaps even reverse autism in your child. I know it may seem hard to believe right now, after all, you’ve probably tried so many things already. But if you stick with me, read the whole report, and try the recommended treatments-you could be living with a completely different child in just a matter of a few weeks.
Reverse autism? I doubt very much that the authors know anything about autism. Helpfully, they confirm this by sharing their thoughts on the causes of autism:
By and large, the medical community still promotes the belief that autism is a genetic brain disorder, and as such, there is nothing you can do to reverse it. Nothing is further from the truth. Intensive research continues to prove it is caused by a combination of some pretty horrendous things, and you can do something about it, even reverse it. But first you need to understand what’s going on inside your child’s body.
Uh huh. So what does cause autism if it is not genetic? “1) Vaccinations May Cause 70% of Autism. 2) Lyme Disease May Cause 20% of the cases of Autism. 3) Environmental Toxins May Cause 10% of Autism.” Let’s look at just one of those statements. Do vaccines cause autism? In the case of the MMR vaccine it has already been shown to be without basis. Andrew Wakefield claimed a link between MMR vaccine and autism. The paper that was published in the Lancet was later retracted, subsequent research has shown that MMR is not linked with autism [see APGaylard's summary of the studies referred to in Offit's book Autism's False Prophets], and disturbing details of Wakefield’s research have been made public [News story: "MMR Doctor Andrew Wakefield Fixed Data On Autism"; this was also covered by Holford Watch here and Left Brain/Right Brain had a post up last year titled "The Truth About Andrew Wakefield". There's a more detailed piece on the news that Wakefield fixed data written by Brian Deer in the Sunday Times here.]
To sum up: people selling miracle cures that are claimed to reverse autism [AKA: "this terrible disease"] are ignorant, exploitative, money-grubbing quacks. I’m not sure what’s more offensive, the idea that someone with no knowledge of autism feels happy to label it as a “terrible disease” or the idea that these same people are ripping off those parents who are desperate enough to try dubious “remedies”.