New study gives hope for autistic people

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Study: New hope for autistic people

So far, autism is not considered to be curable. A new study gives hope that this could change soon. In animal experiments, good results have been achieved with the long-known drug bumetanide.

Bumetanide drainage agent

Drainage agent Bumetanid Autism is currently not considered to be causally treatable. This could possibly change in the future with the help of the long-known drug bumetanide. Doctors usually prescribe this ingredient as a drainage agent. However, according to Roman Tyzio, Yehezkel Ben-Ari and colleagues from the Inmed research institute in Marseille, France, in the scientific journal Science, the drug can prevent misguided social behavior similar to that in human autism in animal experiments.

So far, autism has not been curable
The majority of autism is described as a congenital, incurable disturbance of perception and information processing in the brain. The symptoms and individual manifestations of the disorder can range from mild, barely noticeable behavioral problems to severe intellectual disabilities. Common to all autistic disabilities is an impairment of social behavior. There are difficulties with speaking to other people, interpreting what is said correctly, using facial expressions and body language and understanding. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), autism is one of the most profound neurological development disorders. Estimates assume that, depending on the form, autism occurs with a frequency of one in 100 to one in 1,000 in the population.

Anxious animals avoid contacts Scientists in France have now injected bumetanide into pregnant mice and rats, which showed and inherited autistic symptoms due to genetic defects. The injections ensured that the offspring of the animals, which attracted attention due to anxiety and avoided contact, were permanently protected from such abnormalities. According to the study, none of the pups would have had any autistic symptoms.

Study with autistic children "For ethical reasons, it is not possible to use the drug as in experiments in humans," the researchers explained. However, Yehezkel Ben-Ari and colleagues had already published an article in the journal “Translational Psychiatry” at the end of 2012, in which they reported on the results of a clinical study with autistic children who had been treated with bumetanide. The agent was able to alleviate the symptoms of the neurological disorder to such an extent that the children retreated less and appeared "more present" to the parents. The scientists believe that this is due to the drug's ability to positively affect the balance of nerve activity in the brain.

Children more open to communication A total of 60 children between the ages of three and eleven, all of whom had some form of autism, were included in the study. The children were randomly divided into two equal groups. One received a milligram of bumetanide daily for three months, and the other group received a sham drug that looked the same. This ensures that the effects achieved with the drug are comparable and are not subjectively assessed. The children in the group who received the medication improved their symptoms by almost ten percent, assessed on an internationally used scale for the development of autism. The children affected were less withdrawn and more open to communication. “Even if we have not yet been able to achieve a complete cure, the remedy has reduced the severity of the autistic disorders in most children. According to the parents, their children are now more ‘present’, ’says research director Yehezkel Ben-Ari.

Valium acts like stimulant The nerve messenger GABA, which normally has a calming effect on overactive nerve cells, is the focus of the work. This messenger, which is widespread in the brain, ensures a balance between stimulation and attenuation of nerve signals. The scientists suspect that this central mechanism is out of balance in autism patients, leading to an overweight of excitatory impulses. The results of the group led by Eric Lemonnier from the Center de Resssources autisme de Bretagne in Brest led her on this track. This researcher had examined the paradoxical effects of valium in autistic children. This sleeping pill would not have had a calming effect on the patient, but on the contrary would have acted like a stimulant on them.

Autistic people form too little "cuddly hormones" The Inmed scientists had the idea that a substance that flushes out the salt component from the nervous system can dampen the pathological overexcitation in the nerve cells and thus at least alleviate the symptoms of autism. The mechanism is already effective in the development of the fetus in the womb, as the current study results show. In animal experiments, the form of the neurological disorder could be completely prevented. As the Inmed researchers have now confirmed, the hormone oxytocin, which is released in large quantities by the female organism during pregnancy, also plays an important role. It has long been known that people suffering from autism do not produce enough oxytocin. This factor, also known as the "cuddle hormone", ensures the intensive bond and caring care of the mother, but is also a nerve messenger.

Hope for medication for autism This acts like a switch in the brain of the developing youngsters, which regulates the balance between exciting and inhibiting nerve impulses. "In the case of autism, however, this switch is not activated," said the researchers. However, not all effects of the hormone and neurotransmitter have yet been researched. Further studies are needed to elucidate possible connections between complications in pregnancy, Caesarean section births and the increasing number of autism diagnoses in recent years, the Inmed researchers believe. But thanks to the mouse studies, the scientists would also understand the causes of the developmental disorder. And this gives hope that a drug for autism can be found in the foreseeable future. (sb)

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