FAU researchers working on experimental drug that may help some adults with autism

December 18th, 2018
After years of research, scientists at Florida Atlantic University discovered a new pathway in the brain linked to behavioral symptoms of autism.

Autism piecesRight now there are no medications approved by the FDA to treat autism in adults but that may soon change.

FAU scientists discovered an experimental drug that may help adults on the spectrum live better lives.

“When you have a child with disability you realize how all the things you took for granted or other things you take for granted are miracles,” said Myra Sherman.

Like many parents trying to provide the best life they can for a child born with autism, Sherman spends each day hoping for a miracle.

“We tend to go places one at a time. A lot of depends on whether Daniel is in a good mood,” Sherman said.

Today is special treat for her son Daniel and several other adults with autism and other special needs.

They are mixing up sweets as part of an adult training program at The Chocolate Spectrum in Jupiter.

It’s a place where adults with autism get a chance to learn unique skills, while their parents share stories of triumph and sometimes bitter defeat.

Many of them are frustrated with the fact there are no medications to treat the core symptoms of autism.

But a local researcher is hopeful they are on the verge to change that.

Dr. Randy Blakely with Florida Atlantic University’s Brain Institute said his team discovered a new molecular pathway in the brain that could help control mood disorders associated with autism.

“Our hope by identifying this enzyme in a way to attenuate it. We may be able to develop medications that can lead to new therapies for individuals with autism, particularly those who have differences in how their brain handle serotonin,” said Blakely, the Executive Director FAU Brain Institute.

Initial studies on mice suggest the experimental drug may treat the core symptoms of autism, helping people on the spectrum have better social interactions and stop repetitive behaviors.

Even if only helps only a small group of people, Sherman said, it would still be a sweet victory.

“I hope researchers keep up their research and hopefully with gods help one day there will really be a cure for autism,” Sherman said.

Right now the drug is in the early stages of clinical trials, not for autism, but for another indication.

FAU researchers hope through the research they are conducting funded by the National Institute of Mental Health they can soon move to clinical trials related specifically to autism.

 

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