We often get queries from parents about research studies they hear about in the media. Often they relate to potential treatments and parents wonder if it is something they should try for their child.
In order to help parents better understand various studies, TheAutismBlog will post from time to time on studies we think worth mentioning. We’ll translate the scientific language found in peer-review journals and provide more depth than media sound bites, aimed at grabbing attention.
Today we share with you two studies focused on possible treatment for autism.
Oxytocin Enhances Brain Function in Children with Autism
Ilanit Gordon, Brent C. Vander Wyk, Randi H. Bennett, Cara Cordeaux, Molly V. Lucas, Jeffrey A. Eilbott, Orna Zagoory-Sharon, James F. Leckman, Ruth Feldman and Kevin A. Pelphrey. Edited by Leslie G. Ungerleider, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD, November 6, 2013
Who: Children/Teens with ASD (ages 8-16.5)
What: One of several randomized brain-imaging studies that explored the effects of using intranasal (nasal spray) oxytocin (a naturally occurring hormone that plays a role in social and communication abilities) in people with autism and related social-communication deficits
Why: Researchers hypothesized that administration of oxytocin would lead to increased/enhanced social functioning
Bottom Line: Increased/enhanced social functioning was noted in the group that received oxytocin. Treatment implications include the potential for use of oxytocin prior to evidence-based behavioral interventions that would allow for improved learning and feedback.
Message to Parents: We’re still far away from understanding the effectiveness of Oxytocin as a supplementary intervention for ASD. However, studies currently underway, including one here at Seattle Children’s (SOARS-B Study) funded by NIMH, will hopefully provide much needed insight in the near future.
Link to study: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/11/27/1312857110
Oxytocin-Mediated GABA Inhibition During Delivery Attenuates Autism Pathogenesis in Rodent Offspring
Roman Tyzio, Romain Nardou, Diana C. Ferrari, Timur Tsintsadze, Amene Shahrokhi, Sanaz Eftekhari, Ilgam Khalilov, Vera Tsintsadze, Corinne Brouchoud, Genevieve Chazal, Eric Lemonnier, Natalia Lozovaya, Nail Burnashev, Yehezkel Ben
Who: Rat mothers and fetuses/babies manipulated to mimic autism in humans
What: This study done with rats examined the effect of administering a drug to rat mothers just before giving birth to rat fetuses who had been exposed to valproate (known to increase risk of ASD) and rats with Fragile X (associated with ASD). The drug (bumetanide) is a diuretic and works by flushing salt and water from the system. Typically in early development, there is increased activity and signaling in the cells and then just before birth, oxytocin is released which flips a switch to change that signaling.
Why: Researchers hypothesized that in these animal models of ASD, there is a buildup of chloride in the cells that doesn’t allow for appropriate shut off of certain signals in neurons in the brain by the release of oxytocin. In these rat models of autism, certain behaviors and brain patterns are observed.
Bottom Line: Bumetanide given a day before the rat mothers gave birth, relieved the symptoms and atypical brain patterns.
Message to Parents: This is very early research for a potential approach for working with specific subtypes of ASD. But we have NO idea if this will work in humans at all.
Link to study: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6171/675