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New Drug May Ease Social Impairment of Autism

New Drug May Ease Social Impairment of AutismResearchers have launched a pilot clinical trial of a new medication aimed at relieving the sociability problems of adolescent and young adult patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

 The medication used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but previous studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior.

 “What makes this important is you might have someone with a 125 or 130 IQ who’s unemployable” because of their social impairments, said lead investigator Maria R. Urbano, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). Their difficulties in social functioning significantly reduce quality of life for those with ASD.

 Researchers say that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant.

 “They often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues,” said Stephen I. Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D., of EVMS.

 “Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration.”

 The trial will show whether the medication, which is already known to be safe for use in humans, has similar effects on the sociability deficits of persons with autism as it does in mice.

 As part of their research, EVMS scientists verified that is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD.

 EVMS scientists found that in the presence of another mouse, a specific mouse strain known as the BALB/c mouse moves as far away as possible and does not interact as normal mice do — just as people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

 This finding gave researchers a way to test whether D-Cycloserine can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others.

 In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medication appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse’s deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.

 EVMS’ laboratory studies with the Balb/c mouse led investigators to hypothesize that D-Cycloserine could ease the impaired sociability of people with autism, such as avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. Those traits can severely limit the possibility of employment and independent living.

 The research is supported by a grant from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.

 Source: Eastern Virginia Medical School

New Drug May Ease Social Impairment of Autism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). New Drug May Ease Social Impairment of Autism. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/12/13/new-drug-may-ease-social-impairment-of-autism/21663.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.