A new paradigm in Autism and Alzheimer’s disease

My research foci have always been multidisciplinary.  For the last 30 years I had been deeply involved in HIV/AIDS research. For the last two decades, my major research efforts have been focused on the immunobiology/molecular study of retroviruses, with a particular emphasis on developing unique therapeutic approaches to the treatment of HIV-1. I am well-known in the scientific community for my invention of in situ polymerase chain reaction (IS-PCR).  My contributions in the development of the HIV-1 viral load concept as the primary means to assess the status of AIDS and role of co-factors in the development of AIDS are widely recognized. Being one of the original developers of the in situ PCR/hybridization, the US Patent Office has recognized the original nature of my work by issuing two patents on the in situ PCR technique in my name, these being the only two patents awarded in the area of PCR (besides the original PCR method). I was also the first to hypothesize and demonstrate that a pan-eukaryote, RNA-based gene silencing mechanism–molecular immunity (RNAi)–exists, which protects its genome against the invading dsRNA viruses, transposons, and other retroelements. I have also been granted a patent on this concept.

My current research focus is on Autism. Most of my focus is to determine why boys are 5 times more prone to develop autism than girls. Recently, we have discovered that certain environmental factors (fragrances) deplete oxytocin receptor positive neurons in male fetal neuronal cell lines as compared to the female cell lines.   I am also writing a book on environmental factors and Autism.

My second major current focus is on Alzheimer’s disease. There is well documented evidence that many environmental factors are detrimental in normal human fetal brain development.  For example, thalidomide, valporic acid, misoprostol, chlorpyrifos, mercury and various infectious teratogenic agents (i.e., cytomegalovirus, rubella, toxoplasmosis and herpes simplex virus syphilis). The potential effects of glyphosate (the major ingredient of Roundup) in development of autism spectrum disorder have been proposed by Seneff et al from MIT.  Very little attention has been paid to fragrances that are so pervasive in our environment and contain synthetic ingredients from petrochemicals and benzene ring compounds that have been contain hormone disturbing chemicals and impart neurotoxic and neuromodifying effects on human neuroblastoma cells.  One can argue that why fragrances and Roundup do not show any obvious harmful effects on adult brains?  Well!  The key word should be “obvious”.  The reason that environmental factors that interfere in the rapidly proliferating and differentiating normal fetal development are not considered to be neurotoxic for an adult is based on the idea that an adult brain is fully differentiated and there is no neurogenesis is occurring.   As a matter of fact adult neurogenesis has been well documented in the hippocampus, amygdala, piriform cortex, dentate gyrus and olfactory bulb. Neurogenesis in subventricular zone of hippocampus is considered to be involved in the fine modulation of olfaction, repair of cortical injuries, and defense of the viral spreading from the central olfactory pathway.  We are working on several environmental factors that are known to interference in fetal brain development are also neurotoxic to the adult brain cells that are going through regular neurogenesis (i.e. olfactory bulb, amygdala, hypothalamus, piriform cortex).  Recent studies have also highlighted the loss of olfaction during the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and loss of hippocampus neurons. Of note, the hippocampus is one of the earliest affected brain regions in Alzheimer’s disease and its dysfunction is believed to underlie the core feature of the disease-memory impairment and thinning of the hippocampal volume is one of the best biomarkers Alzheimer’s disease. The hippocampus has two major interconnected roles. It is involved in consolidation of some forms of memory and learning and emotional processing. Neurogenesis is essential for memory, learning mood and olfaction there is extensive evidence showing that these processes are altered in Alzheimer’s disease. The cause of Alzheimer’s disease must be viewed in light of the temporal expression of neurogenesis in adult brains and the types of cells that may be most harmed by exposure to neuromodifying environmental factors.  We forward the hypothesis that the most likely culprit may be the fragrances that are mostly used by women and this gender suffers from the highest rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

I hope this outline provides you with an overview of both past and current research initiatives.