A new research study has found that autism could possibly be treated by a medication normally used for high blood pressure. The study also found that the diesase could be caused from a faulty chemical switch that fails to get turned on in time in order to aid in helping the brain to develop normally. By having found this, the French research team, which discovered this, hope to begin working on what they are hoping will be a significant understanding into the cause of autism.
The group has tried the drug on at least 30 children who suffer from autism. Now they have begun testing the drug with more, in hopes it might improve the core characteristics of autism for the very first time. There are already on the market drugs that are able to treat some of autism’s symptoms, but not any that have been able to address the underlying social and communication problems and repetitive actions, which outline the condition. Prior attempts to produce an effective treatment against the condition, which is believed to affect almost one in 90 American schoolchildren, have either been unsuccessful or are also still in the experimental stages.
In a report that is due out in the journal Science, the scientists give reasons behind the promise of the drug, bumetanide, which is a generic diuretic that has been used for a long period of time to treat fluid retention in people who suffered from high blood pressure. The researchers discovered that the medication, if used during while pregnant, was able to change the symptoms of autism in newborn mice that had been bred with an hereditary condition which many times caused the disease in humans, and in rodents that were exposed to an epilepsy medicine, which had also been known to cause autism.
The researchers believe that bumetanide is able to flip that chemical switch on inside the brain. It changes the chemical GABA from causing stimulation of electrical activity to shutting it down. This switch must be turned on near or during the birth process in order for the brain to be able to develop normally, explained the main study scientist Yehezkel Ben Ari of the French Medical Institute that is located in Marseilles, France.
Because the switch did not come on in rodents that had two extremely different autism triggers of autism, the researchers explained that they might have discovered an underlying cause of autism. However, Andrew Zimmerman, who is a pediatric neurologist and leading expert on autism at the University of Massachusetts Medical School stated that the research study information was an incredible finding and really great. But he added that it was much too early for people to think it was time to begin trying the drug outside of any carefully observed clinical trials. He stated that there were just too unknowns at the present time, such as what the drug does to the developing brain to how much of the medication to administrator and when to do it.
Gary Goldstein, who is the president and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Baltimore area clinic and also a research center, stated that there are numerous things that have been found to cure cancer in rats and mice. There are all kinds of drugs that supposedly fix a lot of diseases but when they are tried on human beings, they end up having adverse effects and they do not cure what they were supposed to. He added that he would not give the new drug to his own child.
Ari and his team have come up with a patented version of bumetanide and have also created their own company in France, to be able to test the drug in other children. He stated that the drug should never be given to pregnant women, even with his success with rodents, due to the impossibility to be able to determine which children would go on to have autism and it would be unethical to try the test on healthy children who do not have autism.
He explains that the drug should be used in as early of childhood that is possible. Ari and his group have been testing the medication on children who are as young as 2 years of age. Autism is usually diagnosed about the age of 4, but autism experts are trying to get that age diagnosis pushed to being even earlier. It is generally thought that the sooner treatment can start, the better it is likely to work.
Ari explained that he hopes the drug will end up showing benefits that cover a wide spectrum of children with autism, but behavior therapy and also other pharmaceutical treatments will most likely still be needed in treatment plans. It is important that people realize there is no medication that has been found to cure a disease that is as difficult as autism. However, the research study has found that autism could be caused from a chemical switch that fails to get turned on in time in order to aid in helping the brain to develop normally, and that this drug could help.
By Kimberly Ruble