Problems with Deisher’s Study— Part II: Biological Implausibility

My apologies for taking so long to get to Part II. Between losing one of the days I allotted for work to a non-stress test, grossly underestimating how much could be wrong in such a tiny section and trying to whittle it down, waiting for personal correspondence [updated 9/25/14], and, you know, life, it has taken a bit longer than I anticipated. I’m still going to plow through, though, because I am sure this won’t be last time this zombie hypothesis is given new life.

Deisher’s study* is incredibly, incredibly thin in the realm of biological plausibility. This is surprising (or not) because she is making some novel, extraordinary claims. Yes, she has a nice bibliography salad, but the studies she cites do not directly, or even indirectly at times, support her central hypothesis that DNA from fetal cell lines is a direct environmental cause for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses. Further, even her unpublished research that has been cited in newsletters and pro-life media means very little in terms of the hypothesis. So, where to begin? Perhaps, we should start with a very simplistic reminder of what DNA is.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is our genetic “blueprint” located primarily in the nucleus of each cell in our body. The well-known double helix shape results from the base pairing of DNA nucleobases— adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), thymine (T)— with the deoxyribose (sugar) and phosphate groups forming the backbone. In the human genome, there are approximately 3 billion base pairs.
Cell and DNA diagramPertinent to this conversation, it is important to remember that the DNA doesn’t “do” anything by itself anymore than the plans to a building builds the building. The DNA is “read” through a process called transcription. During transcription, an enzyme, RNA polymerase binds to the DNA at a promoter region just prior to the gene in question and produces messenger RNA (mRNA) after transcribing the termination sequence. The mRNA can then be decoded by the ribosome, an organelle, in a process called translation to assemble a protein. The protein-coding sequence of a gene is called an exon.

Now, let us consider the residual DNA that can be present in vaccines. In order to grow the viruses used in viral vaccines, you must use a cell line; viruses proliferate in cells. Some vaccines produce viruses in cell lines (WI-38, MRC-5) that were derived from the lung tissue of two fetuses who were the victims of unrelated elective abortions. Leaving aside the philosophical moral issues and our visceral reactions to the evil of abortion, from an objective, scientific standpoint, these are completely normal human cells. Their verifiable normality was the major reason for the development of the cell lines in the first place.

During the vaccine manufacturing process, the cells are destroyed to harvest the viruses. The product is also treated with the enzyme DNAse, which fragments the unprotected DNA at random. In total, the purification processes reduce the DNA to trace, nanogram(ng) levels. (A nanogram is one billionth of a gram.)

The first problem when looking at the biological plausibility of Deisher’s DNA hypothesis is what she is actually measuring and how accurate those measurements are. It should be noted that Deisher never tested MMRII (measles, mumps, rubella) or Varivax (varicella) vaccines; she only tested MeruvaxII (rubella) and Havrix (hepatitis A). It is unclear whether she can make any kind of valid assumption about the DNA content in the untested vaccines, especially as the 2 micrograms(µg) she uses as the DNA content of Varivax comes from an approval document that is over 20 years old. Further, Dr. David Gorski, MD, PhD, a published surgical oncologist and cancer researcher, noted under his nome de plume some potential problems in Deisher’s methods, including a lack of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and the results potentially muddled when you combine the specificity of the Picogreen test with the insufficiency of degrading RNA by heating alone. You can read the details on his blog (though he is not charitable to the religious who promote bad science).

Like Gorski, I also noted something very curious when reading the study. If you’ve ever done experimentation in the sciences or engineering for review, you know that you will always have the evaluating party (professor or reviewer) expect to see some tables, pictures, graphs, etc. Yet, in the Deisher study, there is bupkis, other than not very detailed results. After some digging, I found an unpublished study of Deisher’s that follows the exact same methodology (ELISA kits–PicoGreen/OliGreen, SYBR gold staining after 4% agrose gel electrophoresis) on the exact same vaccines. These results should not give us much confidence with either the numbers published in the study nor in how they advance her hypothesis. You’ll notice the inconsistencies from Figure 2: some vials show both double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) and single-stranded DNA (ssDNA); some have one or the other. The weights are not consistent. Only two base-pair measurements were taken with MeruvaxII and one is less than 200 base pairs. (That will be relevant when discussing FDA recommendations.)

That should say "Tables from Figure 2"
That should say “Tables from Figure 2”
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that her numbers are accurate. It isn’t necessary to dispute the numbers to demonstrate that the fear-uncertainty-doubt spread by this study is completely unjustified. In the long run, though, we should keep in mind that this might be a dubious assumption.

The mechanisms: Lack of evidence and plausibility
While Deisher admits that she and her coauthors “do not know the causal mechanism behind these new contaminants and autistic disorder,” she proposes two mechanisms: autoimmune reactions and/or genomic insertions and mutations. While she refers to these mechanisms as “known” and “clinically documented”, they are not and she does not back up that claim with sources.

We can basically rule out the idea of the trace, fragmented DNA by itself causing an autoimmune reaction. Unlike an allergic reaction, which involves hypersensitivity to an allergen, autoimmune reactions result when the immune system erroneously recognizes the body’s own cells as “foreign” and then attacks them. Deisher, herself, conceded in an expert testimony that there is no evidence for free DNA fragments causing an immune reaction: “I must note that Merck did investigate the possibility of an immune response to the contaminating DNA and found no response – which is one of the reasons we have focused on the theory of genomic insertion.” In the highly criticized Ratajczak study, citing Deisher as a source, the premise of vaccine-DNA-induced autoimmunity in the etiology of autism relies on genomic insertion. Truly, the only sources she cites in her study (Freimanis 2010, Tai 2008) refer to the potential genetic components of (completely unrelated) autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. “It is the proteins and not the DNA that generates the immune response in humans,” explains Rev. Dr. Nicanor Austriaco, OP. Therefore, we have to focus on the ridiculous implausibility of normal, human DNA inserting and expressing itself in such a way as to cause autism.

Think about all the things that would need to happen to make this hypothesis even possible. These normal, human fetal cell line DNA fragments would have to:

  1. Enter the cells (these are presumptively neural cells in the brain, based on Deisher’s previous assertions)
  2. Enter the nucleus of the cell
  3. Insert or recombine into genome both behind/with a proper promoter region and have a termination sequence
  4. Consistently code for all the genes associated with autism

    Consistently code for some protein that triggers an autoimmune response to the cell (and that autoimmune response be responsible for autism)#

  5. Express that code in substantial quantity to cause systemic autism

Then, you would still have to demonstrate that this actually happens in autistic people. As you can see, this is a very, very, very tall order. To paraphrase Dr. Paul Offit, a well-published doctor and co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine who is highly respected among his peers, the likelihood of all of this happening is roughly equivalent to a child flapping his arms and taking flight. But we can’t even get off the ground in step 1.

There are a great many barriers to getting even the trace amount of DNA from a vaccine to neural cells. The injection is given into the muscle or right under the skin— the DNA fragments would need to inexplicably bypass those cells and remain intact and functional through interstitial fluid and get into the blood stream. From there, the DNA fragments would have to inexplicably breach the blood-brain barrier, a highly selective barrier that impedes the influx of molecules into the brain from the blood. Despite what you may have heard, it is formed and functional at birth. “There is no clear mechanism to explain how DNA injected into a baby could ‘wreack havoc’ on the baby’s DNA,” says Fr. Austriaco, “especially since there is a blood brain barrier that prevents the movement of molecules from the blood into the brain.”

Deisher previously has proposed a mechanism as to how the DNA bypasses the blood-brain barrier that is so far removed from reality, I can’t even come up with a cogent analogy for how absurd it is. In December 2009, Deisher claimed that “DNA injected into a muscle can be picked up by receptors on the nerve ending. Once DNA has been taken up in to the nerve endings, it can be transported back up the nerve’s axon to the brain.” Deisher might as well have claimed the DNA gets there by magic. If axons, the “nerve fibers” that conduct electrochemical impulses, could regularly transport unspecific, non-adapted macromolecules up to the brain, we would all be in seriously big trouble because that would mean the blood brain barrier is completely useless and the brain is an easy target for any toxin or pathogen that enters our bodies. Deisher says this occurs by retrograde axonal transport, but this makes no biological sense. Only select pathogens have adapted specifically to take advantage of retrograde transport to enter the nervous system; it is those specific adaptations that scientists are hoping to exploit for targeted gene therapy and Deisher knows this. (It’s right there in the sources she cites in the newsletter!) To imply that we should expect free, fragmented, non-adapted DNA to behave the same way is… seriously problematic.

Even if the DNA fragments somehow managed to get up to the brain, Deisher presents no evidence that they are capable of permeating the cell membrane. Even her own unpublished research, shows that not all cells will spontaneously uptake DNA into their cells. This was even after she incubated the cells with far, far higher concentrations of DNA than could exist in the body from a vaccine!

“Think about how hard it is to do gene therapy,” says Dr. Offit. In gene therapy, you have a specific, intact gene; you have a promoter region; you have a way to get it into the cells like a viral vector; you are injecting microgram(µg) quantities of this specific, intact, correctly coded DNA (1µg= 1000ng). Even then, it is very hard to get the genes expressed. “It would be the best news for gene therapy, ever. You can give random fragments of DNA and get the phenotypes of autism? Wow.”

Of course, no one, not even Deisher, has demonstrated that unprotected DNA fragments will enter normal human neural cells, enter their nuclei, and incorporate into the genome. In fact, people who work in biomedical research were the first ones to draw my attention to her unpublished research and its fatal flaws. Deisher tested 7 different cell lines, and only 2 showed DNA insertion into the host genome even with the high concentrations. Both NCCIT (teratocarcinoma) and U937 (lymphoma) are cancerous cell lines. She couldn’t get genomic insertion in any sort of naturally present, healthy cell. She could only get it in cancer cells isolated and cultured for research purposes in a lab. And, in case people haven’t taken note, cancer cells can do some weird things!

In fact, the “weirdness” of cancer cells is the entire reason the FDA has a recommendation of limiting residual DNA in vaccines to 10ng, but you would never know this from Deisher and SCPI. While not mentioned in the study, SCPI continues to exploit this recommendation to “prove” how “unsafe” the DNA levels are in fetal cell line vaccines. But reading the actual recommendation, to the contrary, shows just how quantifiably ridiculous it is to perceive residual fetal cell line DNA as a threat.

The 2005 draft presentation cited by SCPI, the 2008 update, and 2010 FDA guidance make it very clear that the concern is with limiting cancerous/continuous cell lines because of concerns about oncogenicity, the capability of the cells to induce tumors. This is not the case with established diploid cell lines like MRC-5 and WI-38. In the 2005 and 2008 presentation, you will see the term “no limit” for diploid cell lines; the 2010 guidance states, “For widely used human diploid cell strains, such as MRC-5 and WI-38 cells, measurement of residual DNA might be unnecessary because we do not consider residual DNA from these human diploid cells to be a safety issue.”

Another pertinent section in the 2010 guidance:

The risks of oncogenicity and infectivity of your cell-substrate DNA can be lessened by decreasing its biological activity. This can be accomplished by decreasing the amount of residual DNA and reducing the size of the DNA (e.g., by DNAse treatment or other methods) to below the size of a functional gene (based on current evidence, approximately 200 base pairs). Chemical inactivation can decrease both the size and biological activity of DNA.

This is actually important because, as you recall, in one of her unpublished studies, Deisher only found one vial of MeruvaxII with a bp size above that of what is considered a functional gene, even if we ignore the randomness and inconsistencies in the measurements. Further, in Victoria 2010, cited by Deisher in her study, the authors only focused on live-virus vaccines (not inactivated vaccines like Havrix for hepatitis A) “[b]ecause the chemical inactivation used in the manufacture of killed-virus vaccines is also likely to inactivate adventitious viruses.” (for brevity, think of this as the potentially problematic DNA sequences.) If Deisher were to try to say anything about the DNA in Havrix, she would have to prove that the current expectation regarding the effect of chemical inactivation on the DNA is wrong, too.

Of course, this is ultimately immaterial. Even with tumorigenic cell substrates (not normal diploid cells) a 10ng limit and reduction to < 200 bp, would provide a factor of safety greater than 107! (107 = 10,000,000). “It wouldn’t matter if it’s 10ng or 10µg,” Offit explains. “It isn’t going to do anything.”

Truly, Deisher should know just how much more DNA than what could be in a vaccine (DNA with verifiable oncogenes to boot) is required to produce an oncogenic event. SCPI declared,

As the FDA authors of a 2008 paper about the cancer dangers of residual human DNA state “Whether this residual cell-substrate DNA can induce tumors in vaccine recipients and thus represent a risk factor has been debated for over 50 years without resolution.”

First, you cannot conflate cancer vaccines and normal childhood vaccines. Even then, the article states clearly that it was only mice inoculated with two types of DNA each at 12.5µg who developed tumors. 12.5µg is the equivalent of 12,500ng and double that amount was needed, in total, to produce tumors. Compare that to the highest level of DNA Deisher claims is in fetal cell line vaccines… and, again, this is with known, complete cancer-causing DNA!

It’s seems if there is even a tangential mention of “DNA” and “vaccine” in the paper, Deisher is wholly uninterested if the concerns expressed are applicable to fetal cell line vaccines. In Mostovoy v. Sec’y HHS, in which Deisher was the expert for the petitioners, the Chief Special Master noted that the “petitioners’ claim that the FDA failed to meet its own safety standards when licensing vaccines containing human DNA is wholly unsupported by any part of the record.” This “record” includes several sources that have been cited by Deisher here and in the past. The Special Master decries things like a “misleading partial quotation” and “numerous unsupported assumptions and inconsistencies.” The summation in that case could very well sum up what we can say about Deisher’s current study: she and her coauthors “have claimed support for their position by relying on documents that furnish no such support.”

Lastly, let’s just remember the scale of things here. There are approximately 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, which exists in all the diploid cells of your body. There are an estimated 37.2 trillion cells in the human body. A nanogram is one billionth of a gram. A seven-pound newborn weighs 3.2 trillion nanogams.

One billion as a visual. One trillion is 1,000 billion.
One billion as a visual. One trillion is 1,000 billion.

This is why the scientific community would demand extraordinary, overwhelming evidence to take Deisher’s hypothesis seriously, not some David and Goliath conspiracy against the poor, persecuted pro-lifers: it is fantastically, mind-bogglingly implausible.

Really, I shouldn’t have had to say anything about this at all. As Rational Catholic Blog explained before, all current research into autism indicates a prenatal onset. The de novo mutations Deisher repeatedly invokes in her study are, by definition, germline mutations that occur in egg, sperm, or in the newly fertilized egg itself. You can’t get any more prenatal than that! “Further, these genes exert their effects in utero,” added Offit, meaning that they have been found to affect the development of the baby while he is still in the womb. Even with a hypothesis as fantastically implausible as Deisher’s DNA hypothesis, there is one hypothesis that I think we can declare impossible: time traveling vaccines.

Or are we to believe in some superstitious nonsense where WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines are so infused with evil humors from the link to abortion that they can defy the laws of nature God wrote into creation?

Stay tuned for Part III: Study design and Conclusions
See the previous posts on this study:
Abortion, Autism and Immunization: The Danger of the Plausible Sounding Lie
Problems with Deisher’s study— Part I: The numbers
Looking a little closer at the numbers— A supplement to Part I

* I will often conflate Deisher with her coauthors or Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute (SCPI). As her most ardent devotees do the same thing, I will do this for brevity.

# “It’s not at all clear whether the markers of inflammation sometimes reported in the brains of autistic children are a cause, a consequence, or merely an epiphenomenon of autism.” Dr. Gorski

Special thanks to Dr. Paul Offit and Fr. Nicanor Austriaco for their personal correspondence!

44 thoughts on “Problems with Deisher’s Study— Part II: Biological Implausibility

  1. ****….but the studies she cites do not directly, or even indirectly at times, support her central hypothesis that DNA from fetal cell lines is a direct environmental cause for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses….****

    Can you please cite for me the passage in the Deisher study in which she asserts a central hypothesis that DNA from fetal cell lines is a “direct environmental cause” for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses?

    I honestly cannot locate such a hypothesis in the study and have apparently missed it….


    • Honestly, that’s one of the problems. It is very unclear from her study what she’s trying to prove. She never says “this is what we think happens; this is how we tested our hypothesis; these were our results.”

      However, when the statements are taken in sum (e.g. “While we do not know the causal mechanism behind these new vaccine contaminants and autistic disorder, human fetal DNA fragments are inducers of autoimmune reactions, while both DNA fragments and retroviruses are known to potentiate genomic insertions and mutations”, “birth year change points for prevalence of autistic disorder should drive consideration of environmental triggers [i.e. fetal cell line contamination]”, “Thus, rising autistic disorder prevalence is directly related to vaccines manufactured utilizing human fetal cells”, etc.) that’s the best way to sum up the hypothesis I could come up with.

      Honestly, if you’re just going to keep focusing on inconsequential minutiae and non sequiturs and not actually read-to-comprehend our posts or the applicable links (like Deisher’s study), please just stop. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi, Laura–okay, so instead of things “Catholic” I’ve focused on what you’re asserting relative to the *science* here, right? I thought that was what I was being urged to consider.

        But above, what you first claim to be the *central hypothesis* of the entire Deisher study is what you are also asserting to be me focusing on “inconsequential minutiae and non sequiturs”….

        How so?

        If your claim is in the Part II post that you’ve identified Deisher’s “central hypothesis,” and I ask to cite it from the study–and you *can’t* cite it from the study–then I’d say you haven’t adequately identified Deisher’s central hypothesis….

        I consider that neither inconsequential nor a non sequitur.

        Seems like, according to my reading, she speaks of *correlation* and not “cause,” right? Can’t we agree on this?


      • Replying to Jim –
        1. Catholic vs Science – I think this is a great forum to discuss both and the articles here shed a uniquely Catholic viewpoint on matters of life, science and medicine. When critiquing a scientific study, I think it’s important to check our biases at the door and yes, look at the quality of the science. IMO that IS the Catholic thing to do. Glad you are looking at that rather than blindly supporting poor science just because someone claims to be pro-life.

        2. Central thesis – it is a hallmark of a poorly written paper if the central thesis is not laid out clearly. The fact that we’re even discussing what the thesis *might* be is a huge red flag for me. However, anyone who has read Diesher’s paper can gather from context that yes, what is quoted above is what she’s apparently trying to prove (whether cause or correlation in order to then prove cause).

        3. Inconsequential- the thesis is not what is inconsequential, Jim. That is what is being put forth and what is criticized (here and elsewhere). The insistence that someone point out word-for-word where Diesher outright says that is what’s inconsequential. It’s a factor of her poor writing that she *doesn’t*. Again, anyone who has read it can see what she was trying to prove. For brevity, the writers here summarized the central point. Insisting that they find a summarizing quote from Diesher is a fake “gotcha.”

        4. Correlation not cause – I can’t speak for the author here, but my take is that yes, Diesher is shooting for a correlation (where none exists) in this paper, in order to lay groundwork for further study into causation. Or to imply causation to the average reader. The problem is that this paper doesn’t prove any correlation, so there’s no need for further study. In fact, I would venture to guess that’s the reason most mainstream scientific blogs/journals/what have you haven’t given this paper any press.

        I do, however, see a lot of people promoting Diesher’s paper within certain Catholic circles, due to the pro-life stance of the author. That is why I am so thankful that this blog exists, to provide that Rational Catholic perspective in those circles.

        Jim Russell
        SEPTEMBER 23, 2014 AT 7:25 PM
        Hi, Laura–okay, so instead of things “Catholic” I’ve focused on what you’re asserting relative to the *science* here, right? I thought that was what I was being urged to consider.

        But above, what you first claim to be the *central hypothesis* of the entire Deisher study is what you are also asserting to be me focusing on “inconsequential minutiae and non sequiturs”….

        How so?

        If your claim is in the Part II post that you’ve identified Deisher’s “central hypothesis,” and I ask to cite it from the study–and you *can’t* cite it from the study–then I’d say you haven’t adequately identified Deisher’s central hypothesis….

        I consider that neither inconsequential nor a non sequitur.

        Seems like, according to my reading, she speaks of *correlation* and not “cause,” right? Can’t we agree on this?


  2. Just a few questions…I left them at Stacy’s blog yesterday, also. What is your research background? You and your buddies at “rational Catholic” sound like theorists not working scientists. I’m just wondering. How many years of research science work have you done? Also what is your educational background in science and statistics. Also have you been analyzing the other studies published in this area with the same exuberance? Thanks


    • I will let the others reply, since I did not write this particular post.

      However, I’m not sure how that has any bearing. Are you insinuating that we have to have a specific type of background in order to be able to make a rational and reasonable analysis of anything remotely scientific?

      As Catholics, we have an obligation to observe and read and improve our knowledge. We are not told to just accept what we do not have a degree in.


    • If you disagree with this post, then you’re free to discuss it in the comments. Why all the questions about the writers’ qualifications? It seems like everyone who is trying to defend Dr. Deisher’s work, wants to talk about everything BUT her work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess I’m replying to you and Liz. Qualifications matter because they indicate a working knowledge of how research is done and a breadth of knowledge in a particular area. It absolutely has bearing because the rational catholic commentor posts I have read come across like the “parenting experts” who have read every book and picked apart every angle but don’t actually have children. And then the rest of us who actually have working knowledge go …Ahhh, now I get it.
        Just sayin.


      • It is absolutely true that I do not have lab experiences in the sciences. However, this is why particularly Laura wrote in consultation with experts who *do* have the experience that we lack. Our goal, particularly my goal in writing, is to talk to the experts and make that more accessible to the average layperson. People like Paul Offit and David Gorski absolutely have the requisite education and experience to call out the biological implausibility of the entire thesis, and people like Matt Carey are absolutely qualified to call red flags on the way statistical work was done. I’m failing to see what exactly is problematic with presenting concerns about a piece of research that has gone viral, particularly when doing so in consultation with PhDs and MDs and when public health is a concern.


      • Hi, Jennifer–I’m certainly eager (above) to talk about Deisher’s work–including what the post refers to her as her “central hypothesis”.

        Do you agree with me that her study does not actually say “cause” but says “correlation”?….


      • I’m replying to Genevieve, in particular: I would stick to my parenting example, in reply. As for talking with experts, great! As for analyzing Great! As for calling a scientist’s work fraud, lies etc, not great! especially when you don’t have the working knowledge and context to understand why things were done the way they were.
        Also, I don’t know anything about Dr Gorski, or Matt Carey, but I’m aware of Dr Paul Offit. He’s affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and receives royalties from Merck who produces his vaccine. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was involved in the early work with aborted fetal tissue cell lines. Not saying that makes him “bad” or anything, just not neutral. I would completely expect to see him disagree with dr Deisher, and claim that this case is closed. It’s just that not everyone agrees, and there could be another view point that isn’t “fraud”. But how much do you really know when you are relying on experts from one side and have no working knowledge yourself?


      • The one person whom I am accusing of being a liar is Andrew Wakefield. The vaccines/autism link was proposed by him and he is a liar who falsified data and has ethical violations too numerous to cite. There is no chance that I will back away from that characterization of that man. And good people, even highly educated people, have been drawn in. I would point them to the fantastic work of the Autism Science Foundation if they would like to look at the current research into causes and incidence of autism.

        Invalidating someone’s entire scientific expertise because people at their hospital work with cell culture is not something I can remotely agree with. Dr. Offit is a giant in his field and worthy of respect for his contributions to humanity. And again, where there has been evidence of harm from a vaccine, the vaccine has been removed. This was the case with Rotashield, pulled within months over a 1 in 10,000 event. The more reaction causing pertussis vaccine was replaced with one that caused much fewer reactions. The oral polio vaccine was removed from use in the US in favor of the injected vaccine. If autism is frequently caused by “vaccine damage” are the same people who sought safer alternatives in other cases too stupid to notice? Too callous to care? And what is the evidence that that would be the case?

        Abortion is the direct killing of innocent human life. That is something we should all be in agreement about in the Catholic blogosphere. It is unethical to use the body of a murder victim for the purpose of medical research. I think we all agree on that too. But abortion is not Murder Plus. And I seriously question whether we would have this degree of outrage over the unjust use of the body of an adult murder victim whose body was disrespected in such a way. I think that disproportionate outrage is leading to some errors of thought.

        And your point about expertise would be more relevant if I were attempting to (as an example) create my own pharmaceutical company to develop a product with which I had no working experience. I’m providing commentary and synthesis of criticism on a topic pertinent to my intended audience. Nothing more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • For Genevieve, I’m not talking about Wakefield, nor am I asking you to invalidate anyone’s expertise, it’s a matter of understanding context. Also I’m not saying anything about abortion being murder plus, so I’m not sure what your talking about. My point about expertise is absolutely relevant because “rational catholic” is calling someone’s work “fraud” and a host of other things, and you are not qualified to say so. I think you all are a bit over dramatic in your characterization of this whole issue and every commentor who has disagreed with you here and at Stacy”s blog. You are wrong to call Dr Deisher’s work a fraud, because you do not have a working knowledge of how she came to look at this issue or decide to do her study the way she did. Fraud implies she changed numbers or intentionally misreported data or something. Simply doing research and asking a question, which to my knowledge has not been addressed anywhere else does not make her a fraud. Go ahead and show what you think is weak in your analysis and let us know that you are not a working scientist or researcher but save your trumped up charges for the day you have qualified experience in the field.


      • AH, I am the only person who used the word “lie” but not the person who used the word “fraud.” I don’t have the background sufficient to use the word “fraud” for this research, although Laura is confident in its use and her significantly more in depth education and experience gives her far more leeway to characterize it a such. There are multiple voices on this blog. The one common factor, though, is that none of us feel this paper is well done or consistent with the body of research scientifically available on the topics of vaccines or autism.


    • It’s kind of strange for people to come to the comment section of a piece with which they disagree and say, “What are your qualifications, because [insert thinly veiled condescending remark here].” That’s kind of like saying a priest can’t have any worthwhile advice about marriage, because he isn’t married. It doesn’t really work that way. It doesn’t have any bearing on the issue at hand, really. It’s an ad hominem attack, but gives the attacker the illusion of having moral superiority. The ugly vice of pride; it’ll get ya every time!

      The whole point of this blog seems to be the fact that as a Catholic, you can think rationally and scientifically no matter what your station in life, and no matter what your level of education. Honestly, in the context of this blog, I’d rather prefer NOT to know the educational backgrounds of the contributors; it gives the blog an “everyman” feel, something to which every person can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m guessing that means you don’t have working experience in research or science. The point is that working knowledge is relevant, perhaps not the only factor but relevant and important. You don’t know what you don’t know if you’ve never done the work. I would think someone who has working knowledge of investigating this issue could address many of the things you point out as “fraud”.


      • The point is, “someone who has working knowledge” in these areas HAS already agreed that this study is deeply flawed. Many experts, in fact – from a man who developed an ethical vaccine (something Diesher purports to be attempting to do and should support), to a statistician engaged by Diesher supporters, to plenty of others (MDs, PhDs, around the web. Many wouldn’t even give this paper the time of day until asked to shed “expert advice” on it, it’s just that bad. Check the links on this article as well as the others in the series, or check yourself around the web, and you’ll find out how many experts have weighed in on this.

        Beyond that, it’s ludicrous to think that only an expert can see what’s wrong here. Laypeople can and should look critically at scientific claims which are so far outside the realm of known, accepted, documented, tested truths of cellular behavior.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry; perhaps “should support” was a poor choice of words. I meant that Dr. Offit has succeeded in developing an ethically-produced vaccine, and thus should not be disregarded as simply being on “one side” of the argument here. From any “expert” testimony I’ve seen, I’ve only ever heard of people either being dismissive of Diesher’s study (i.e. “I’m an important scientist who has better things to do than discuss this nonsense.”) or when asked, have made it abundantly clear that it is, in fact, nonsense, and have explained why. When someone is proposing a drastically different biological mechanism (this DNA argument), in the face of loads of specific criticism, I believe the onus is on that person to explain how and why this actually *could* happen. Not to hide behind a make-believe “the science isn’t settled” nor “no one without certain credentials can argue this” and then reply that everyone with those credentials is only on one side of the argument. Can you find someone other than Diesher et al. who are on her side?


      • In reply to Juliacali, what I’m saying is that I don’t think I would trust your judgement about what is known, accepted documented etc, nor would I trust your review of the science because you don’t have working knowledge. As for your experts, awesome, let’s see them offer up their analysis. You may be able to read and be logical but you don’t have the context of working in this field to be able to call another persons work fraudulent, ridiculous or any of the other disparaging words you and the “rational catholic” crew have used. You just don’t. I think it’s funny that you all can’t see how that’s relevant. I think I’ll try that at my next job interview, umm yeah I know I don’t have any experience but I can read and I totally am logical, and I’ve talked to lots of experts. So that’s why I wanted to know. Thanks


      • Woah. I’ve never said fraud or anything; I’m not the author. I see that the author here has quoted lots of other people’s analyses of this work. Some were very disparaging. So check the links. Or look yourself if you don’t trust that the links provided here are representative of the body of scientific knowledge on the subject.

        I’d like to know your credentials to say that DNA can, in fact, operate like this, but I can separate what you’ve written in a combox from what Diesher (author) has put forth. Neither you nor she has demonstrated/proven that such a thing ever happens. Ots an idea and the data don’t even show correlation, so no need to look for a ‘how.’ Your comments are a red herring because you’re not arguing against the points as presented. Prove ’em wrong and I’ll listen.


      • To A.H.: I am not myself a contributor, if my comment didn’t make that clear. I’m simply a reader.

        Also, a person can’t bring up objections unless they’re an expert themselves? So, a person cannot object to heresy in a piece by a Catholic theologian if they are not theologians themselves? That’s ridiculous.

        You wanted Deisher’s hypothesis to be true, and you’re frustrated that many people–experts and laymen alike–are showing (quite eloquently, I might add) that it’s wrong. That’s your real issue here.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Coralline Therese? Are you the same as coralline? Anywho, you come across as being defensive here and at the other site. Read the other posts. I’ve stated it pretty clearly. You kinda crack me up with your over the top responses, though. Kinda entertaining.


      • To Juliacali, I think I made my objections pretty clear. Also I’ve never said anything about what DNA can do. Also I have no idea what “Ots an idea” means. Qualifications matter of context. Your the blogger.


      • Wow, I’m the blogger now? Didn’t know that.
        No, I never said fraud. I said “flawed,” which sounds like fraud if you’re reading aloud. But no, I’m not named Laura, nor do I have the technical writing prowess to have written this series. I also don’t have a personal blog of my own. I signed up for wordpress but haven’t had the time to write anything. I follow this blog because I learn from it and because they summarize info I’ve read at other independent scientific sites, but those sites are often critical of the religious/moral viewpoint and not prolife.

        I’m aware you didn’t say anything about DNA. My point was that I can tell the difference between what you have said in a comment box and statements made by the author you’re defending. My analogy wasn’t spelled out, and I apologize if it wasn’t clear to you, but you’re asking about my credentials when I’m not the one who wrote the article. I’m not asking your credentials for something Diesher said. You have confused me with the author. Is it that hard to believe that there are many people out there who disagree with Diesher’s conclusions? Or do you just lump us all together?

        But back to the point, I contend that the experts quoted and cited here do have the qualification to say basically, “DNA doesn’t do that” (or that the DNA is randomly fragmented so it’s a huge reach/impossible to think that the right piece of DNA will travel through axons, get through to the brain, attach at a right spot where it will specifically cause autism, and have this happen exactly the right place/way enough times to cause autism in many cases). I don’t doubt Diesher’s degree and I don’t know your background or education. I think yours is irrelevant because this is a comment box. If anyone proves DNA does do that, I’m all ears. But with such a far reach, you need to have a lot of proof, not just a theory and purported correlation that’s not even there.

        And btw that’s what I meant when I wrote “Ots an idea.” I meant to write “It’s,” as in, it’s just an idea and no proof. Thank you for clarifying your typo. No need to apologize; it didn’t get in the way of understanding meaning.


      • To Juliacali, sorry yes I did think you were one of the bloggers because all of the authors of the blog posts are not clearly labeled, unless I’m just missing it, and you responded several times to my queries, which were originally intended to ask the crew at rational catholic. But I guess crew wasn’t the best word to use. And I guess my comments could still apply to commentors especially those who may not have any experience working in science/research and may have used all kinds of disparaging remarks to describe Dr Deisher’s study and other work.


      • Ok, no worries. To be clear, I’m not the author. You might have noticed I said “the author” a few times in my replies. I do wish there were a byline under the title here, but the author’s name is listed at the bottom, near all the share buttons. There is also a tab on the top left for “Contributors,” where the bloggers of Rational Catholic are listed and mention that they all have different viewpoints.

        I responded to your comment about waiting for moderation “as a reader” /after/ someone else did (I assume one of the bloggers, though I didn’t go back to check whose name it was). The only reason I weighed in there was because I remember that specifically being mentioned in one of the earlier articles in this series – that some comments might wait till the end. Thought I was being helpful but I guess a blogger already answered.

        As for this comment stream, I was admittedly jumping into a conversation you were having with another /reader/ about qualifications. I think that’s how comment boxes work – you post yours and it’s open for comment by others who also read the same article. I thought some of your comments were addressed in the article (especially asking for qualified people’s opinions on the matter, which are linked throughout). I intended to draw your attention back to the original article & author, but I did not intend to imply I was she. If it came across that way to you, I apologize. I just thought it was odd you thought we were all the same people.


      • A.H., yes, Coraline. With one L, thank you.

        I do not see how any of my comments anywhere (the other site? What are you referring to?) have been “over the top”; would you mind elaborating?

        I am being defensive; I’m defending the piece here, and the authors of these pieces. I think they deserve to be defended against their attackers, particularly because those attacks are coming from awfully surprising places.

        I’m glad you find my comments entertaining.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Coraline. Asking about someone’s experience is not an attack. Explaining why I’m asking about someone’s experience is not an attack. It also isn’t pride or condescending nor is it moral superiority. That is why I think your comments are over the top. Calling someone a fraud is very possibly an attack. Also presuming you know why I’m asking and telling me what I think is in my opinion goofy. But hey, you must have fans cause someone “likes” your comments.


    • A.H. Currently, we are a group of women that are mothers as well as having other jobs. We do not have the time or resources to be checking for new comments every half hour or so. We do our best to keep up with them, but sometimes our kids or jobs keeps us from that.


      • Also, keep in mind as a reader, that this work is part of a series. Perhaps some of the comments/questions brought up will be addressed in the next section of the series.


  3. It seems worth pointing out once more, in the hopes of clarification from the post author, that the claim made at the beginning of this post (repeated below) is that Deisher’s “central hypothesis” is that “DNA from fetal cell lines is a direct environmental cause for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses.”

    This is simply NOT the central hypothesis presented in the study. The author needs to clarify that this is merely a presumption being made, not found in the study text itself.

    If this is not addressed, how can I possibly read the rest of this post with an open mind? It seems vital to be able to grasp–based on the *study* rather than one’s presumption–what the Deisher study has actually asserted.

    Again, I see in the study itself that *correlation* is asserted, but not causation. This is hugely important. Can we agree that the Deisher study asserts only correlation *without* asserting causation?

    ****….but the studies she cites do not directly, or even indirectly at times, support her central hypothesis that DNA from fetal cell lines is a direct environmental cause for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses….****


    • See–here is why I think this is so important: just read someone claiming that the post above “systematically dismantles Deisher’s actual hypothesis.”

      Really??? What IS the “actual hypothesis”???

      The one I see in the study is correlation. The one I see here is “direct environmental cause.”

      Does this really dismantle Deisher, or is it dismantling a presumption?


  4. I’m not the author (just to be clear) but I did read Diesher’s paper as well as other articles citing her & more of her research/unpublished work. I can’t offer the author’s take but I can give mine.

    On pg 13, Diesher et al. write, “Manufacture of childhood vaccines in human fetal cell lines, with its associated retroviral and human DNA fragment contaminants, fulfills all of the necessary requirements as a primary trigger for the ND disease, autistic disorder.”

    I agree with you that she doesn’t say “I have proven it is a cause,” but she does think she has proven a correlation. And this sentence does imply that she’s looking at it as a cause/primary trigger.

    1. Correlation – if proven – does not prove anything. I might find a correlation between honeybee population and juvenile arrests. It doesn’t even warrant further study unless there’s a reson to suspect causation or to rule out other factors as causing both.

    2. If you prove correlation and want further study, you have to have some sort of plausible biological mechanism for more study to be warranted. Otherwise it’s just as superfluous as honeybees. Diesher may not have flat-out claimed causation in this paper, but taken as a whole with her research and claims of DNA transfer etc, this is clearly where she was going. Otherwise, why all the talk about /how/ vaccines might cause autism, if she’s not out to prove that they do?

    3. The paper doesn’t provide evidence for correlation at all (see part 1 and supplement in this series, as well as outside experts and statisticians who have shown it does not.). So if the paper’s hypothesis is correlation, it doesn’t succeed. This portion of the series was to show how /even if there is correlation/, that wouldn’t mean anything without a plausible mechanism. And this DNA theory is what is being put forth as the “how,” even if it’s not listed as the hypothesis here.

    4. So this series appears to be saying basically, “Diesher claims correlation but statistically that isn’t so (part 1). Even if it were so, there’s no plausible way that correlation could have meaning. And the specific mechanisms put forth to explain causation do not hold water (part 2). I don’t know what part 3 will tackle, but I’m interested. Especially since you really don’t NEED anything more to be wrong with this paper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reply, Julia. So, the very concluding text of the Deisher study is this:

      “This overlooked potential trigger for the worldwide autism disorder epidemic demands additional studies in order to assure the safe manufacture of routine recommended childhood vaccines, particularly since reverting to animal based manufacturing methods is readily available.”

      This seems to be as far as the study authors are willing to go: “potential trigger.”

      And what is being requested? “Additional studies.”
      Why? “To assure the safe manufacture of routine recommended childhood vaccines.”

      So the “central conclusion” appears to be that there might be an overlooked “potential trigger” that really needs more study so that vaccine manufacture is *safe*.

      So, how can the “central hypothesis” be “that DNA from fetal cell lines is a direct environmental cause for increasing autistic disorder (AD) diagnoses”????

      IS a direct cause? No–the study’s language is “potential trigger”. I see a difference here…


      • I get your point about the hypothesis and I agree that her wording *here* stops short of causation, as I said above. In reading scientific papers, that’s pretty much how they all sound, asking for more research and grant $ even when there is already a strong body of evidence. Or when there’s not. People always want to encourage more research into their own fields or projects. I haven’t read a paper that says, “this is it! Here we have explicitly proven xyz,” even when the proof is rather strong, but they will present it that way on other forums or in other discussions, and of course articles will put it forth with those headlines even when the paper itself is cautious to use more limiting scientific terminology.

        Of course all that is moot because she doesn’t prove correlation anyway, and the evidence Doesn’t “demand” further study at all. I read that as someone trying to claim something that’s not there because she wants more grant money to keep chasing that wild goose. Just because we may want something badly, doesn’t mean it’s true.

        Why would she have put forth this DNA idea if not to try to show causation? And I’ve already said that there’s no reason to be discussing this potential trigger’s methods of “how” if there’s no evidence that it’s a trigger anyway.

        I feel that you are hung up on a moot point and are missing the evidence. You are not arguing any of the science in this article, just reiterating that the author’s assertion of Diesher’s hypothesis was maybe mis-worded at worst, or predicated on taking Diesher’s work and comments *in sum* as a hypothesis rather than solely this paper’s stated hypothesis (which is my take on the reason behind the wording). Do you have any light to shed on the actual arguments presented?

        If not, I think we are still just going around in circles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Deisher also says in the study: “Vaccinations have done tremendous good in the world: however, further investigation of fetal manufactured-vaccine contaminants as an environmental contributor to the current autistic disorder epidemic is called for.”

        Again, does “an environmental contributor” actually *mean* “direct environmental cause”??

        I must continue to assert that the blog post above clearly misstates the “central hypothesis” of the Deisher study. The author *overstates* what the study actually is asserting. The study’s evidence is actually *not* intended to support the idea of “direct cause.” It’s intended rather to support the idea of “a contributor”.

        This should be corrected. It’s almost as if the Deisher study is not being taken on its own terms but instead is being treated merely as Wakefield 1998, part two.

        And if Deisher’s study says “vaccinations have done tremendous good in the world,” then she can hardly be shoehorned in as “anti-vaccine,” right?


  5. Paul Offit and David Gorsky are NOT unbiased scientists that are qualified to make a criticism of the details of Deisher’s study. Offit is rabidly pro-vaccine with royalties from his own vaccine invention and Gorsky gets paid to write his slanderous blogs that attack ANYTHING that so much whispers a negative idea about a vaccine.

    And whenever a medical doctor comes out against vaccines, they are immediately attacked and told they do not have the qualifications required to analyze vaccines. Apparently you have to be an immunologist but even if you are an immunologist and turn against the madness of vaccination, you will become ‘a quack’ in the eyes of so-called science, which is well on the road to medical fascism, wanting to vaccinate every baby starting on day one and continuing on indefinitely for life with an ever increasing vaccine schedule that has NEVER been properly analyzed for its safety.

    Thus, it is perfectly rational to ask the authors what their qualifications are.


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