For Immediate Release

Protein Traffic Jams in the ER Cause Autism, and Vaccines Contribute: New Research Pieces the Autism Causality Puzzle Together

Pittsburgh, PA - Research on the causes of autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has focused primarily on genetics.  But the genetics of autism represents a scientific paradox: Genetic research points to hundreds of genes that contribute weakly to strong patterns of inheritance of risk within families, but no single gene contributes to more than 1% of risk of diagnosis of autism. The genetic studies themselves also leave room for a significant role for environmental factors.  Some studies report that the environment contributes as much as 30-50% of the risk of autism. Environmental toxins seem to accumulate in many people with autism, and many have chemical sensitivities. Vaccines have been ruled out as a contributing environmental factor, but nothing in the environment has changed that can sufficiently explain the rise in the diagnosis of ASDs.  Rates of autism are now reported to be 1 in 36 in the US. So what in the environment could influence hundreds of genes and yield to such a high rate of diagnosis of autism?

Fold Your Proteins Properly, Avoid Autism

A research scientist in Pittsburgh, PA has found evidence in hundreds of available research studies that has caused him to conclude that vaccines have, after all, contributed to this massive increase, and the reasons why it has not been detected, he says, provide a clear message for a restructuring of how the genetics of complex diseases are studied.  The cause, he says, is that mutations cause issues with protein folding, and the metals in vaccines also cause the same problem.  He calls this model the “ER Hyperstress” hypothesis of autism.  Roughly 1/3 of the proteins encoded by the human genome require special assistance to fold into their proper shape to function, and the folding takes place in a region of the cell called the Endoplasmic Reticulum, or “ER”. The review includes a list of brain proteins that have mutations that have been found to be associated with autism – and for which the mutations are known to cause problems with protein folding.

“No one has designed the right study to test this, or any other hypothesis, in which ASD is found in a genetically susceptible subgroup, let alone a heterogeneous genetic minority”, says Dr. James Lyons-Weiler of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge. “The mutations make folding the proteins difficult, and metals in vaccines hinder the process as well.” He says the mutations are also a start to a potential vaccine biomarker list for screening those most at risk to protect them from potential harm.

In reviewing the scientific literature on autism, he found research that has focused on dozens of environmental causes other than vaccines, but that key parts of the science show that metals used as additives in vaccines can impair the ER and can cause other important cellular injuries as well.

“Autism is an acquired detoxification syndrome”, says Lyons-Weiler.  “Vaccine metals harm brain cells in three major ways – they hurt the ER, they can damage the mitochondria, and they can cause the waste removal system to shut down”.  He says this explains why children with autism so often accumulate other toxins from their environment so easily.

Past Studies Have Not Addressed the Hypothesis of Genetic Susceptibility

The research article, which survived two rounds of blinded peer-review, appears in Autism Open Access, and also includes, at the request of one of the reviewers, a complete review of the studies published to date used to conclude that vaccines do not cause autism.  Lyons-Weiler, an expert in research study design, genetics, genomics, and proteomics, says that the science just isn’t there because those studies were designed to test the wrong hypothesis, and most have significant flaws.

“The studies conducted when the question first came up were designed to detect a link if everyone in the population could develop autism from vaccines.  Clearly, that is not the case.  Autism exists in a growing minority of our population, but it is still a minority, and you have to design the study to determine if ASD risk is increased in that specific subpopulation, not in the whole population.  We need personalized medicine in immunization practices to avoid putting toxins into babies and children who cannot handle them as well as others” he says.

In personalized medicine, studies designed to test the safety of drugs often seek biomarkers to find patients who will not tolerate the drug, or for whom the drug may be ineffective.

Lyons-Weiler also cites numerous flaws in the studies to date. He says many of the key studies used by The National Academy of Science’s Institutes of Medicine were far too small to find an association if it exists in a small percentage of individuals.  The review reveals that some studies used so few patients that less than one person with autism would have been found in the vaccinated and in the unvaccinated group.  Most of the previous studies are unable to fully test the hypothesis of causality, he says, because they only studied trends, or correlations.  These studies fall into a category of studies called “ecological” or “correlation” studies, which are generally considered too weak to assess causality.

Focus on Cellular Mechanisms

A large part of understanding what’s happening in the brain cells in ASD, and in cells throughout the body in other conditions, depends on the successful resolution of a misfolded protein traffic jam when it occurs, and a growing literature shows that problems with protein folding are at the core of many mysterious diseases and conditions.  When confronted with a build-up of unfolded proteins, the cell has three possible responses: reduce the rate of protein production, chaperone the misfolded proteins out of the cell, or cell death.

“It’s the cellular death that releases cytokines, causing the low-grade brain inflammation, and kick-starting the brain injury response signals seen in the brains of people with autism” says Lyons-Weiler.  “And, when brain cells die, they re-release the vaccine metals, about half of which can stay in the brain for as long as 27 years” he says.  He says that vaccine cellular injuries make other toxins more toxic.  “It’s a perfect storm”, he says.

When asked how he intends to handle critics who say that the science is settled, and that vaccines do not cause autism, he said “I used think that, too. Now I think ‘well, maybe not in everyone’. That is a fundamentally different hypothesis never addressed by existing studies. Vaccines contain aluminum, some contain mercury, both of which harm the cells in ways outlined in the review.  We know some people are ‘allergic’ to aluminum, and some people in the general population are more sensitive to some chemicals than others. There are newer studies that support the link. Now it seems there is a complex genetic basis for these differences. For me, the only relevant research question is ‘how are we going to reduce the amount of aluminum and mercury our kids get, and how are we going to get these neurotoxic metals out of our kids’ brains and bodies safely?’” 

Aluminum exposure by diet contributes only a minor percentage of total aluminum exposure because normal absorption of aluminum from food and water is less than 0.05%.The review cites studies that support increased doses of Vitamin D specifically to help cells resolve the protein folding problem caused by aluminum and mercury.  Aluminum is known to be involved in the etiology of other conditions including Alzheimer’s disease.

More info: Lyons-Weiler, J. 2018. Autism is an Acquired Cellular Detoxification Deficiency Syndrome with Heterogeneous Genetic Predisposition.  Autism Open Access 7,5 DOI: 10.4172/2165-7890.1000224

Alternative headline:

Mutations in Brain Proteins Point to Genetic Susceptibility to Metals in Vaccines 

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Related Resources

What is the Unfolded Protein Response? (YouTube resource)

Aluminum from Diet vs. Vaccines

Personalized medicine

Protein folding

Diet and Nutrition (Vitamin D)

Brain Health


Chemical sensitivity

Genetics of Autism

Metals in Vaccines