Researchers Discover that an Old Drug May Help Treat Autism Symptoms

A drug that was developed over 100 years ago to treat trypanosomiasis, or African sleeping sickness, has recently been evaluated to help treat individuals with Autism. Researchers have studied suramin, a treatment that was synthesized in 1916, and found that it was successful in treating Autism behaviors in mice. Suramin was able to block nucleotides and the receptors linked to Autism in the mice.

The use of suramin resulted in an effective shut down of “cell danger response”, a process that happens when cells experience stress. When cells are threatened, they stiffen their membranes and alter the metabolic process, which could potentially lead to permanent damage, as well as lead to neurodevelopmental delays in children.

Dr. Robert Naviaux, senior author of the study, focused on studying the chemical interactions that might reverse the cell danger response, leading them to suramin. Suramin blocked ATP signaling pathways, halting the danger response in cells in mice genetically engineered to present with autism spectrum disorders equivalent to someone approximately 30 years of age. With the cell danger response halted, the mice began showing signs of improved behavior, and symptoms of Autism seemed to disappear. The improvement in behavior lasted an average of five weeks after the drug use.

Dr. Naviaux stated, ““The discovery that a single dose of medicine can fundamentally reset metabolism for weeks means that newer and safer drugs might not need to be given chronically,” he continued, “obviously correcting abnormalities in a mouse is a long way from a cure in humans, but we think this approach – antipurinergic therapy – is a new and fresh way to think about and address the challenge of autism. Our work doesn’t contradict what others have discovered or done. It’s another perspective.”

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be discussing additional medical research on July 1st in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Gary Steinman, Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Steinman will be giving an intriguing presentation on the proposed role of an insulin-like growth factor in Autism.  To attend this incredible conference, please select your tickets here.  Early bird ticket specials are still available – this is a conference you will not want to miss!

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