Drug to effectively improves Autism symptoms by targeting the brain’s chemical messengers

The study demonstrates for the first time that the drug improves the symptoms by decreasing the ratio of the GABA to glutamate in the brain.


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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a problem that influences a child’s nervous system and development and improvement. It regularly appears during a child’s first three years of life. Some children with ASD seem to live in their reality. They are not interested in other kids and lack social awareness.

Although the biological mechanism underlying ASD remains largely obscure, past research has proposed that it might result from changes in brain development early in life and associated explicitly with GABA, a neurotransmitter, a chemical in the brain that controls how nerve cells convey.

In the adult brain, GABA is inhibitory, which implies it switches nerve cells ‘off’. In fetal life and early postnatal advancement, it is, for the most part, excitatory, switching nerve cells ‘on’ and making them fire, assuming a key job in the improvement and development of nerve cells.

Current treatments for ASD at preschool age are essentially behavioral intercessions, for example, using play and joint activities between parents and their kid to boost language, social, and psychological abilities. In any case, with constrained assets, there is a disparity in access to these treatments over the globe, especially in developing nations.

Recently, a coordinated international effort between scientists from different institutions across China and at the University of Cambridge, UK, has indicated that Bumetanide is safe to use and to compel at reducing symptoms in kids as young as three years of age.

The group enlisted 83 kids aged three to six years of age and divided them into two groups. A treatment group of 42 kids got 0.5mg of bumetanide two times every day for a quarter of a year, while a control group of 41 kids got no treatment. The scientists evaluated symptoms using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), which is utilized to rate behavior, for example, imitation, emotional response, and verbal and non-verbal communication. Kids who scored over 30 on the scale are considered to have ASD.

Before treatment, both groups had similar CARS scores, but afterward, the treatment group now had a mean total score of 34.51 (compared to the control group mean score of 37.27). Also, importantly, the treatment group showed a significant reduction in the number of items on the CARS assigned a rating higher than or equal to three, with the average number of 3.52 items in the treatment group compared to 5.49 items in the control group.

Scientists also used a brain imaging technique known as magnetic resonance spectroscopy for better comprehension of the mechanisms underlying the improvements. They studied concentrations of neurotransmitters within the brain. They found that in two key brain regions- the insular cortex and visual cortex- the ratio of GABA to glutamate decreased over the three months in the treatment group. GABA and glutamate are known to be necessary for brain plasticity and promoting learning.

Professor Ching-Po Lin of National Yang-Ming University said: “This is the first demonstration that bumetanide improves brain function and reduces symptoms by reducing the amount of the brain chemical GABA. Understanding this mechanism is a major step towards developing new and more effective drug treatments.”

Professor Barbara Sahakian from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge said: “This study is important and exciting because it means that there is a drug that can improve social learning and reduce ASD symptoms when the brains of these children are still developing. We know that GABA and glutamate are key chemicals in the brain for plasticity and learning, so these children should have an opportunity for a better quality of life and wellbeing.”

The study is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.


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