Warning: This post contains an inordinate number of run-on sentences. Yoast’s readability analysis says it’s awful.

If you’ve been following my learning journey, you’ll know by now that I am not working through a syllabus, but following clues and cues, and occasionally going off on whole new path (like my choline-and-carnitine excursion) and down a rabbithole (see my notes on bicistronic genes). I now have a lot of loose threads that need typing up, and I fear that this post may spout several more mixed metaphors as I introduce yet another new topic: phospholipids and lipid metabolism.

About two weeks ago, I learned that one of my autistic friends is in a lot of pain from an undiagnosed condition which is causing fat necrosis with a lot of visible pitting in her thighs. It looks like eosinophic fasciitis, but her doctor says it isn’t that.

My knowledge of fat metabolism is quite limited. I have what appears to be congenital lipolymphoedema in both my legs, forming that classic cuff around the ankle (hard to find socks that fit); and I’ve had a fatty liver, a problem which seems to have resolved itself now, apparently due to the regime prescribed by my doctor plus my own supplementation with phosphatidylcholine based on my hypothesis that I have a PEMT mutation (and the doctor seems to agree that it was not too wild a guess on my part, and told me to keep up the choline).

Add this to the mind-mix: I recently saw the genetic test results of another autistic person with more than twenty gene mutations, and of them produces a scary anomaly in lipid metabolism.

So, bearing in mind that I know very little, and that I am hectically prone to confirmation bias, and that I try to find connections, I set about trying to figure out whether all these shards could possibly fit together somehow, since lipids (fats) feature in all these stories:

So, tadaaa! Here is what I have now learned:

The liver is not the only body bit that should interest me in all of this. Lipids — and phospholipids in particular — are in abundance in membranes; and I guess that is why I am taking phosphatidylcholine and not just choline. The phospho-bit is very important. I now also understand (based on the work of Dr. Pettegrew (q.v.)), why some famous award-winning psychiatrist whose name I have forgotten (she was tagged by Paul Whitely) recently suggested to me on Twitter that phosphatidylserine may also be important in the bipolar equation.

And curiously, I now also remember that I once saw the lab result of an autistic kid whom I’d sent off to the pathologist, and the results showed severe hypophosphataemia, and at the time I thought, whattt?! I had never even thought of phosphates being an issue before. (The kid is OK, now, by the way; I’d dissuaded the mother from using ABA and MMS — yeah, seriously, a homeopath had given her that, and I reported him to the authorities, the consummate quack! — and referred them to a doctor who understands a thing or two about systems medicine. The mother stopped trying to fix the little girl’s autism, she just treated the health issues and let her daughter be her stimmy self, and the child is now flourishing.)

So, back to my story:

My quest led me to the work of Jay Pettegrew, et al. It started when I landed on one of their patents, and then tried to find out who Dr. Pettegrew was (here you go, in case you’re curious), and ended up at this rather jaded (but very useful) Web site.

At that point, I became very sad. This academic (who has a single one-star rating on the Web as a practising psychiatrist), along with his colleagues, had found something potentially useful, even if it wasn’t complete. They were on their way somewhere. And they apparently started a business of sorts, to bring their discoveries to the world and to make money from them, and to further their research. This is me completing the pattern in my mind, and seeing the same sad fate that befalls most independent inventors — the enthusiasm, the hard work, the hope… and the relentless crushing grind of megasystems suppressing these shoots of learning. And in the end, very few people benefit.  I don’t want to dwell on this, although I am tempted to mutter something about Big Pharma, but then I will sound like a rabid New Age consipracy theorist. So let me mindfully try to not go down that quagmire of despair, and simply say, “Thank you, Dr. Pettegrew et al., I will read more of your work now that you have alerted me to the importance and relevance of phospholipids.”

See, phospholipids are important in membranes, and ion channels are in membranes… and phospholipids are important to ion channels.

So, what may seem to outsiders like the random ramblings of a pre-senile woman with serious ADHD, has indeed brought me back to my project on sensory overstimulation. I am not off track. I just need to piece together some of these fragmented shards.