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Researchers may have a cure for Autism

There may finally be a cure for Autism
There may finally be a cure for Autism
SawHtoo / Foter / CC BY

French researchers are testing a drug they hope will help children with autism. According to a report published by USA Today on Fed. 6, French researchers at the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, in Marseille, France are testing a drug they hope will help children with autism. The new research study suggests that Autism is caused at birth when a chemical switch is not flipped in time to help a newborn infant’s brain develop normally. This results in the brain remaining overexcited and vulnerable to injury.

Lead researcher Yehezkel Ben-Ari hopes the drug they are testing on European children will make a crucial difference in allowing brain networks to develop normally. They believe the drug will trigger the chemical switch. Through a combination of environmental and genetic factors, the starting point of autism is believed to be during early pregnancy. It creates a wide range of repetitive behaviors as well as social and communication differences.

The symptoms of Autism range from minor social awkwardness to severe behavior problems and an inability to speak. The study showed that in mice and rats with autism, the chemical in the brain, GABA, did not make a switch from stimulating electrical activity to tamping it down, as it should have. A generic diuretic, bumetanide (long used to treat high blood pressure), was administered to their pregnant mothers. Afterward, the switch took place and the rodents did not show any signs of autistic behavior.

In Marseille, Ben-Ari and his colleagues formed a company named Neurochlore to run the tests and capitalize on the outcomes. They also have patented their version of the drug. Bumetanide is considered safe for adults but it is too soon to know whether it should be given to children, in what doses or what age group. Ben-Ari does not believe it should be used on pregnant women.

It is unethical to test on healthy pregnant women and impossible to determine which children will develop autism at this point. Autism is generally diagnosed around age four but Ben-Ari is testing the drug on children as young as two years old. The procedure aims to give a Child Psychologist the ability to diagnose children at as early an age as possible in order to better treat autism.

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