Researchers may have found a breakthrough treatment for a genetic form of autism! While it’s still new, scientists are hopeful, as they’ve been using the experimental cancer drugs to reverse the condition in mice. Here’s what you need to know!
Researchers may have developed a preventative cure for autism! Although the drugs have only been used on mice so far, researchers do believe the medication could reverse the condition in newborns, according to Medical News Today and the findings in The Journal of Neuroscience published last week. In fact, lead author Professor Riccardo Brambilla from Cardiff University said, “It could be possible, in principle, to permanently reverse the disorder by treating a child as early as possible after birth.” Find out what you need to know about the new drugs below:
1. Here’s how it works:
Led by Professor Brambilla, scientists have discovered that certain cancer drugs stop the protein ERK2 from reaching the brain, thus reversing autism symptoms. The drugs also restore normal brain function in mice with autism-spectrum-disorder symptoms. “By limiting the function of the protein that appears to cause autism symptoms in people with the chromosome 16 defect,” Professor Bramilla writes, “the trial drug not only provided symptomatic relief when administered to adult mice, but also prevented genetically predisposed mice from being born with the form of ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder].”
2. The mice reacted positively to the treatment.
The mice that had the defect displayed a series of behavioral and molecular abnormalities, which included hyperactivity, dysfunctions in their maternal behavior, and problems with their olfactory perception. At the same time, researchers found that mice with 16p11.2 deletion also had higher levels of a protein called ERK2. However, when given to pregnant rodents, the drugs not only eased the mothers’ symptoms, such as hyperactivity, but also prevented their offspring from being born with the disorder.
3. The drugs were initially developed to treat cancer.
The protein ERK2 has been recently emerging as a target in cancer therapy, which prompted the scientists to test the effect of experimental cancer drugs on mice with 16p11.2 deletion. What ended up happening was, the drugs stopped ERK2 from reaching the rodents’ brains, which reversed the ASD-like behavioral, neurological, and sensory symptoms in the mice.
4. Here’s what this means for humans:
“While it wouldn’t be feasible to treat pregnant women who have been screened for the genetic abnormality, it could be possible, in principle, to permanently reverse the disorder by treating a child as early as possible after birth,” the new study states. Furthermore, for adults with the condition, ongoing medication would most likely be necessary in order to treat symptoms. The hope is that scientists can replicate the mice findings and then ultimately test the drugs in clinical trials for people with ASD.
5. This would help 1 in 59 children.
One in 59 kids in the US have an autism spectrum disorder, according to recent report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over seven percent of these cases have been tied to chromosomal defects, which suggests that many of the impairments in social communication, movement, sensory perception, and behavior come down to genetics. In short, this drug could be a total game-changer.