Researchers are working to develop treatments for autism, and one drug is showing surprisingly positive results in animal studies. The experimental compound is known as GRN-529, and was developed by researchers from the National Institutes of Mental Health and drug maker Pfizer. The drug has been shown to increase social interactions and reduce repetitive self-grooming in a group of mice bred to display autism-like behaviors.
Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life. It affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. The disorder has been associated with abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. While the exact cause of these abnormalities remain a mystery, autism is a very active area of research.
The findings of this new study suggest that a single treatment could potentially target multiple diagnostic symptoms associated with the condition. “Many cases of autism are caused by mutations in genes that control an ongoing process – the formation and maturation of synapses, the connections between neurons. If defects in these connections are not hard-wired, the core symptoms of autism may be treatable with medications,” researcher Jacqueline Crawley said in a statement.
GRN-529 is one of several drugs in a class of medications designed to inhibit a cell receptor called mGluR5 that plays a role in Fragile X, a disorder similar to autism. These drugs are currently being tested in patients diagnosed with Fragile X. Researchers say that studies into mGluR5 drugs suggest the medications could also be tested in patients with autism. However, researchers warn, there is currently no way of knowing whether the medications would be effective in older children and adults with autism.