Aspen wrote:It's interesting, but I only had two ultrasounds and my daughter is autistic.
How strong is the correlation, if you know?
At present, there has only been one study that's looked at correlation between number of ultrasounds and autism and it returned null results. However, it's really difficult to look at a variable that may act differently on different subpopulations. While there may be some risk associated with timing and/or number/duration, it may also heavily rely on factors innate to the developing fetus.
Ultrasound and autism may not be related in the slightest. But the biggest problem that I see, and which Manny occasionally touches on amidst all his fervor, is that we just don't know. Originally, when Manny came to me with the idea to write an article proposing a potential link, I thought it sounded kinda crazy. Let's face it, at face value it sounds like yet one more causal Holy Grail that the pro-cure groups would latch onto: something environmental to blame. And the crazier-sounding the better.
BUT, I gotta be honest, as I went deeper and deeper into the literature, I've realized how potentially dangerous a tool this is and how lightly it's treated by both the medical and lay communities. Ultrasound isn't a camera and this is anything but a picture. It seems to do a number of things to a cell. For one, the force it creates actually promotes the production of free radicals and those free radicals trigger lipid peroxidation. High levels of free radicals are dangerous because they are highly reactive substances that are short of one or more electrons. So in order to fill up their outer valence and find a more homeostatic state, they steal electrons from other compounds. Usually, they do this from the molecules that are the weakest and easiest to steal from. In the case of a cell, this usually means the polyunsaturated lipids (yup, polyunsaturated fats that you see listed on the backs of food products, the "good fats" as they say) because they have a double-carbon bond which, compared to the rest of the atoms in the lipid, is a really weak bond and easy to break. Other lipids, like monounsaturated and especially saturated fats are more resistant to the effects of free radicals. The problem with this is that lipids make up the cell membrane. So ultrasound initially targets polyunsaturated lipids within the membrane, free radicals stealing electrons from these lipids, which in turn turns the fats into a proxy radical which then starts a chain reaction of electron-stealing throughout the membrane. After a brief period pores appear in the membrane which can let in a number of molecules that, under most conditions, are normally kept out except under certain circumstances, like the firing of a neuron. Free radicals can also attack the membrane that surrounds the DNA (the nuclear envelope), causing problems. In addition, they can make difficulties for the mitochondria because the mitochrondrion uses oxygen (a potential initiator of free radicals) to produce ATP, which is the energy source of the cell. And last but not least, free radicals can actually act as transmitters and trigger a whole host of communicative changes within the cell, basically sending it the wrong message. What this can do, if the cell itself is not damaged (which usually it isn't to any considerable extent under diagnostic intensities) this can instead redirect the cell towards an alternate development. Cells are highly reliant on timing and location for their cues as to what to develop into, and so ultrasound has great potential to communicate to the cell incorrectly and put a cell onto the wrong developmental track.
Now, just picture you're shooting all this at your baby. Even though I'm the one doing most of this research, I'm not quite sure if it's involved in autism. But the important thing in my mind is simply that we don't understand ultrasound enough and we're subjecting our kids to it. That's pretty scary. And so in the meantime, I definitely recommend extreme caution to anyone who's pregnant or considering getting pregnant. Don't use it unless you really need it.