An experimental drug has been found to ease two of the core behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in mice, a new study shows.
A single injection of the compound curbed repetitive behaviors and improved sociability, researchers report in Science Translational Medicine.
Despite the success of the experiments by the US National Institutes of Health, treatments which work in mice frequently fail in humans and potential medication would be years away, the BBC wrote.
There is no cure for Autism spectrum disorder, thought to affect around 1 percent of children — ad one out of every 88 American children, according to CBS.
Instead, autism is mainly treated with specialist education, speech and behavioral therapies.
Behavioral displays include social problems, delayed language and repetitive movements such as hand tapping.
For the experiment, the NIH researchers bred a strain of mice to display autism-like behaviors — the mice did not interact and communicate with each other and spent an inordinate amount of time engaging in repetitive behavior — in this case self-grooming — according to CBS.
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The predominant theory on autism is that any problems are be "hardwired" into the brain, however the researchers said there was evidence that in some cases autism could stem from the way cells in the brain communicated with each other at synapses, the gaps between individual brain cells.
They administered the drug, GRN-529, which targets glutamate, a major neurotransmitter found throughout the brain that's involved with activating neurons, or brain cells, HealthDay News reported.
Almost immediately, the mice showed fewer repetitive behaviors and more normal social interactions.
"These findings offer encouragement that research focused on developing medicines for core symptoms of autism are gaining momentum," study co-author Robert Ring, vice president for translational research for Autism Speaks, an autism research and advocacy organization, reportedly said.
Experts caution, however, that the results of animal studies often don't hold up in humans.
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