A treatment for adults on the autism spectrum may be in sight, thanks to a new discovery.
After decades of research, scientists at Florida Atlantic University (FA) have discovered a new pathway in the brain linked to behavioral symptoms of autism – and a drug that may quell them.
Some autism advocates have increasingly been pushing for people on the spectrum to not be treated as ‘disordered,’ but rather as simply different.
On the other hand, the FAU researchers note that autism also frequently comes with physiological problems – particularly for the gut.
There are currently no treatments for autism in adults, but the team discovered a drug treated the behavioral ‘disruptions’ in mice genetically engineered to have autism, suggesting it might do the same for people on the spectrum.
About 1.5 million people in the US have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The spectrum is a broad one, with symptoms appearing very differently in men and women, children and adults, and this variance means that
Many live independently, enjoy successful careers and loving relationships.
But others struggle to engage socially, are racked with repetitive behaviors and easily reach sensory overload. Day-to-day living can be excruciating, and the symptoms debilitating.
Autism’s causes are not entirely known, but experts suspect it is in part genetic, and in part due to environmental factors.
The only real treatments are early behavioral therapy, and in some cases antipsychotic drugs, or the occasional antidepressant, but these don’t treat the central symptoms of autism.
But these are largely intended for children with ASD, and there are not any approved adult treatments.
Thanks to decades of research on the relationship between serotonin and autism, however, the team at FAU may be on the verge of one.
First, they discovered 25 years ago that a genetic mutation was throwing off the regulation of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter to the feeling of happiness, in people with ASD.