Monday, February 12, 2007

More Evidence for Physical Causation of MCS

A German study relating particular genes to chemical sensitivity was published Saturday in the on-line, peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. The genes code for enzymes that help break down and detoxify a wide variety of common chemicals, including both pharmaceuticals and known carcinogens. Eckart Schnakenberg and the other authors of the study are actually illuminating the important role of environmental exposures in causing chemical sensitivity by helping us understand the genetics. (No, folks, it's really not an either/or situation and their work is not a disguised attempt to blame the victims or suggest that we are a tiny group of strange mutants who collapse under our own weight without provocation.)

One of the studied enzymes, an N-acetyltransferase (NAT), is involved in the metabolism (break down) of substances "produced in industry, and found in cigarette smoke as well as the human diet." Around half of all Caucasians carry a variation that's slower rather than faster at its job. People who have it don't clear low-dose carcinogens from the body as efficiently as the rest of the population. The Schnakenberg study showed that they are also likelier to report problems with chemical sensitivity.

Two other genes the researchers examined code for glutathione S-transferases (GST), which are also involved in detoxification. These genes are more frequently deleted on both chromosomes in the chemically sensitive. That is to say that neither mom or dad contributed a copy of one or both genes. And no gene, no enzyme.

I'm sure it's still a long road to understanding the mechanisms for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), but studies like Shnakenberg's should silence the it's-all-in-your-head crowd at some point along the way. As we know, that bunch is still annoyingly noisy, but you'll notice its "experts" tend to ignore, rather than try to refute, this type of ground-breaking research. You are born with your genes and the ones that are being associated with chemical sensitivity are implicated not in mental illness, but in protecting the body from toxic chemicals.

My knowledge of biology is rusty, so if I have made any errors in my effort to summarize the Germans' work please let me know. Also, for a better explanation of the relevant scientific concepts and terminology please see an excellent article on a pioneering and closely-related study published by Gail McKeown-Eyssen and her colleagues in 2004.

1 comment:

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