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Drug could Potentially Treat Autism, Study Reports

Update Date: Feb 07, 2014 10:16 AM EST

A team of French researchers reported that a high blood pressure drug could be effective in treating children with autism. The team first tested the drug on animal models and now plans on starting a clinical trial with a larger sample set of European autistic children.

Many autistic drug therapies today treat some of the symptoms but not the underlying problems. The researchers believe that the drug, bumetanide, which treats the fluid retention of high blood pressure, could be reverse autistic symptoms completely. For this study, the researchers initially experimented on mice models. They induced autism in the offspring of pregnant mice by using the epilepsy drug, valproic acid. The pregnant mice were given bumetanide, which is a diuretic, to see if the drug would reverse the symptoms of autism.

The researchers discovered that the mice that were supposed to be born with autism did not exhibit the symptoms of the condition. The team believes that bumetanide worked by altering the chemical GABA and preventing it from stimulating electrical activity in the brain. The researchers explained that this switch in the chemical GABA activity must occur during or near birth. Regardless of these findings, whether or not this treatment could work for humans is still unknown.

"So many things cure cancer in mice and rats, and so many things cure all kinds of things and then when we give them to humans they have adverse affects and don't fix the problems we thought they could fix," says Gary Goldstein, president and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Baltimore-based clinic and research center. "I wouldn't give it to my child, I can tell you that."

Lead researcher, Yehezkel Ben-Ari from the French Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale located in Marseilles, France, and his colleagues have patented an altered version of the drug that would be tested in children. They had already tested the safety of the drug on 30 children and are moving to recruit a larger sample size. Ben-Ari stated that the drug would not be experimented on pregnant women since autism cannot be detected in the womb. The team stated that the drug could be effective when given to children starting at two-years-old.

"It's important for people to understand there is no drug to cure a medical disease as complicated as autism," Ben-Ari stated according to USA Today.

The study was published in Science.

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