WEDNESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental drug reduced two signature characteristics of autism -- repetitive behavior and abnormal social interactions -- in laboratory mice, new research finds.
The drug, GRN-529, targets glutamate, a major neurotransmitter found throughout the brain that's involved with activating neurons, or brain cells. Researchers believe the compound works through a specific glutamate receptor (mGluR5) and decreases glutamate activity.
Researchers bred mice to have the hallmarks of autism -- including unusual social interactions, impaired communication and repetitive self-grooming -- and injected them with GRN-529.
Almost immediately, the mice showed fewer repetitive behaviors and more normal social interactions, although their communication was still not typical.
"These findings offer encouragement that research focused on developing medicines for core symptoms of autism are gaining momentum," said study co-author Robert Ring, vice president for translational research for Autism Speaks, an autism research and advocacy organization.
Experts caution, however, that although studies in animals can be useful, the results of animal studies often don't hold up in humans.
The study is in the April 25 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by problems with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted interests and behaviors. An estimated one in 88 U.S. children has autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Until recently, experts believed that the core symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and Fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder that shares many of the same symptoms as autism, couldn't be treated well with medications, because the underlying abnormalities were "har
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