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Mercury Containing Preservative Alters Immune Function


Although far from the smoking gun that proponents of a thimerosal-autism link seek, the finding suggested that thimerosal (also know as thiomersal) exposure could cause dendritic cells to activate "aberrant and harmful immune responses," according to Isaac N. Pessah, Ph.D., and colleagues of the University of California at Davis. They reported the research online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

"This is the first time that thimerosal has been shown to selectively alter the normal functions of dendritic cells," said Dr. Pessah, a toxicologist and director of the Children's Center for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention at Cal Davis.  He added that dendritic cells "play pivotal roles in overcoming viral and bacterial invaders by coordinating the immune system's overall combat response."  Yet, Dr. Pessah emphasized, "Our findings do not directly implicate thimerosal as a single causative agent for triggering neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism."

"There is growing evidence that autism is several disorders that we now refer to as just one," he added. "There is also growing evidence that some children with autism have unique immune cell composition and responses to antigens. The results of our work provide a framework to test the hypothesis that the genetic background of some individuals may render them especially susceptible to thimerosal."

Dendritic cells are antigen-presenting cells that are potent activators of T-cells. But as Dr. Pessah and colleagues demonstrated in their study of cultured mouse cells, exposure to thimerosal disrupts calcium-channel signaling within dendritic cells, thereby altering growth patterns, maturation, and activation.

They determined this by exposing both mature and immature dendritic cells cultured from murine bone marrow to thimerosal at varying concentrations. The authors used immunocytofluorescence to visualize the effect of thimerosal exposure on calcium channels. Thimerosal contains approximately 50% ethylmercury by weight.

They found that at concentrations of 20 parts per billion, exposure of the dendritic cells to thimerosal altered the normal cross-talk between the calcium channels RyR12 and IP3R1, thereby "garbling the normal signaling system between them." In addition, exposure to the compound resulted in irregular secretion by the dendritic cells of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6. When they ramped up thimerosal concentrations to 200 parts per billion, they found that it induced apoptosis of dendritic cells before they had fully matured, thereby preventing T-cell activation.

The finding suggests that in addition to its known neurotoxic properties, ethylmercury may also be an immunotoxicant, the authors said. "A practical implication of the present findings has relevance to the commercial uses of thimerosal as an antimicrobial agent in vaccines and consumer products since they identify dendritic cells as sensitive targets for thimerosal and ethylmercury-mediated dysfunction," they wrote. "Given the importance of dendritic cells as a front line in regulating lymphocyte mediated immunity and tolerance, altering dendritic cell functions by forms of ethylmercury should be considered when assessing contributions to altered immune function."

They stopped short, however, of fingering thimerosal as a cause of autism. Thimerosal is still used in some commercial vaccines. Other experts also advised drawing no final conclusions regarding thimerosal and autism on the basis of on this research. "These findings should be interpreted cautiously. Although they suggest that thimerosal may affect dendritic cell function, the pathophysiological consequences of thimerosal remain unclear," said David A. Schwartz, M.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who was not involved in the study.

Original study

Samuel R. Goth, Ruth A. Chu, Jeffrey P. Gregg, Gennady Cherednichenko, Isaac N. Pessah, Uncoupling of ATP-mediated Calcium Signaling and Dysregulated IL-6 Secretion in Dendritic Cells by Nanomolar Thimerosal, Environ. Health Perspect., 114/3 (2006) 1083-1091. DOI:10.1289/ehp.8881

Related Information

 PutChildrenFirst.org was founded by parents to let the world know that the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, is covering-up the relationship between a near-tripling of vaccinations for our children in the 1990s and the epidemic of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders that began at exactly the same time.
Foundation for Autism Information & Research Inc. : Heavy Metal Toxicity in Autism

Related EVISA News (newest first)

February 11, 2005: New findings about Thimerosal Neurotoxicity
April 4, 2005: New results about toxicity of thimerosal
March 24, 2006: American lawmakers initiate mercury probe for vaccines

Other News

 US NewsWire, April 5, 2006: New Internal Documents Reveal Deception by the Centers for Disease Control About Vaccines' Role in Autism, Says Generation Rescue
 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 6, 2006: Autism controversy eats at credibility of CDC
EMA, April 10, 2006: Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) Position Paper on Thiomersal
 ContraCostaTimes, April 13, 2006: Mercury-free vaccines protested
 OpEdNews, April 18th, 2006: Autism - Worst Welfare Disaster In History
Global National, July 4th, 2006: Study: Mercury in vaccines not cause of autism
OpedNews, August 13, 2006: Government Investigation Finds Autism Vaccine Related
 SaveMinds, February 9, 2007: CDC Autism Prevalence Study Confirms Epidemic, Is Consistent with Role of Environmental Factors

last time modified: March 7, 2024


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