The potential for a drug to treat autism has increased after symptoms of the disease were diminished in trails on mice, which was conducted by the US National Institutes of Health. The new drug improved social skills and less repetitive behaviour in trial mice.
Autism spectrum disorder had been thought to be untreatable by drugs. The hypothesis was that any problems would be hardwired into the brain. But there was substantiation that in several cases autism could be down to the way cells in the brain correspond to each other at synapses, which are the gaps between individual brain cells.
Researchers tested a drug, known as GRN-529 that interferes with the chemical glutamate, which helps two brain cells to communicate each other. The engineered mice with autistic behaviors were less social and communicate less with other mice. Autistic mice spend majority of tine by repetitively grooming themselves.
When autistic mice were administered with GRN-529 injection, the mice spent less time grooming and also showed improvements in social skills. The researchers believe their findings could raise the possibility that drug could be used to treat autism spectrum disorder. Autism is thought to affect about one percent of children globally.
The condition ranges from mild to severe and its symptoms include social problems, delayed language and repetitive movements such as hand tapping. The existing treatments for autism mainly include specialist education, speech and behavioral therapies. It is often seen that treatments which work in mice frequently fail in humans and potential medication would be years away.
Given the high monetary and emotional support to families, schools and health care systems, they are hopeful that this line of studies may help meet the need for medications that treat core symptoms of the disease, explained Dr Jacqueline Crawley, one of the researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Richard Mills, the director of research at the National Autistic Society, stated the NAS welcomes all research that improves our understanding of the neurobiology of autism. Research using animal models is important but it is not always easily translated into understanding of autism in humans. The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.