NORFOLK, Va. Eastern Virginia Medical School researchers have identified a potential novel treatment strategy for the social impairment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), an aspect of the condition that has a profound impact on quality of life.
"Persons 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, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration."
As part of their research, EVMS scientists verified that a specific mouse strain, known as the BALB/c mouse, is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD. In the presence of another mouse, BALB/c mice move as far away as possible and do not interact as normal mice do just like people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.
This finding gave researchers a way to test whether an existing medication can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others. The medication used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but previous studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior. 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.
Dr. Deutsch will discuss the research at EVMS' Quarterly Autism Education Series at noon, Dec. 14, in the school's Hofheimer Hall auditorium.
EVMS' laboratory studies with the Balb/c mouse led its investigators to hypothesize that D-Cycloserine could ease the impaired
|Contact: Dan Shuman|
Eastern Virginia Medical School