Autism is thought to result from abnormal cell communication. Testing a new theory, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have used a newly discovered function of an old drug called suramin — used medically for the treatment of African sleeping sickness — to restore cell communications in a mouse model of autism, reversing symptoms of the devastating disorder.
“Our theory suggests that autism happens because cells get stuck in a defensive metabolic mode and fail to talk to each other normally, which can interfere with brain development and function,” said Robert Naviaux, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and co-director of the Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center at UC San Diego.
“We used a class of drugs that has been around for almost a century to treat other diseases to block the ‘danger’ signal in a mouse model, allowing cells to return to normal metabolism and restore cell communication.”
“Of course, correcting abnormalities in a mouse is a long way from a cure for humans,” said Naviaux, “but we are encouraged enough to test this approach in a small clinical trial of children with autism spectrum disorder in the coming year.”
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