thatcherite lysenko, and some very strange behaviour with goats and children

I knew Andrew Wakefield was full of shit, in a conflict of interest, practicing crappy lab technique, a hypocrite who thought autism was caused by measles viruses when he was in Britain and mercury when he was in America, someone who dealt with people who were promoting quack treatments like giving your autistic kid chemical castration and washing all the electrolytes out of their bloodstream…but I didn’t know precisely what he was proposing as an alternative to the MMR vaccine.

Nor did he, in fact; he hadn’t characterised the agent he proposed to extract from mice infected with measles, inject into goats, sorry, pregnant goats, extract from the goats’ colostrum, mix with human bone marrow cells, and then inject into other people’s children. His patent doesn’t actually say what the “transfer factor” is supposed to be, and his proposed production process wouldn’t select any specific cell type, protein, or other chemical. In so far as anyone has any idea what “transfer factor” might have been, it looks like the likeliest mechanism of action was the same one that caused a recent drug trial to go horribly wrong.

In fact, one of the main barriers to taking it further would seem to be that it might not have been permitted by the Home Office…because it was unnecessarily dangerous and cruel to the goats.

Read the whole thing – you’ll learn quite a lot about human (and goat) immunology, about the man who got Wakefied interested in autism in the first place (he claimed to have cured patients by injecting them with his own bone marrow , before he got into trouble for helping himself to the opiates) and you’ll be amazed that the Royal Free Hospital let him get this far with a project based on the immunology of the 1940s, at best.

It may have been for the best that Wakefield got sidetracked into being a media oaf, rather than actually getting to the point of injecting randomly selected goat cytokines into children.

One of the things that struck me was that it sounded like the sort of thing Soviet scientists might have got up to at the Stalinist nadir. Lysenko, of course, confined himself to plants. The Randi people reckon the Royal Free were influenced by the possibility he might have brought in research funding; a very Thatcherite Lysenko.

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