Scientists ‘Switch Off’ Autism Symptoms Using $3 Epilepsy Drug: Discovery
Scientists ‘Switch Off’ Autism Symptoms Using $3 Epilepsy Drug: Discovery

Scientists ‘Switch Off’ Autism Symptoms Using $3 Epilepsy Drug: Discovery

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex developmental condition that impacts how an estimated 5.4 million (2.2% of) adults — and one in 44 children — in the United States perceives and socializes with others. It is often accompanied by abnormalities such as epilepsy or hyperactivity, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. (View Highlight)

A team of experts at Germany’s Hector Institute for Translational Brain Research found that the medication lamotrigine — an anti-seizure drug first approved for use in the US in 1994 — was able to curb behavioral and social problems linked to the disorder. (View Highlight)

“Apparently, drug treatment in adulthood can alleviate brain cell dysfunction and thus counteract the behavioral abnormalities typical of autism,” lead researcher and cellular biologist Moritz Mall said in a statement. “[This occurs] even after the absence of MYT1L has already impaired brain development during the developmental phase of the organism.” (View Highlight)

The drug, which typically sells for just under $3 per pill, works by reversing changes to brain cells caused by a genetic mutation. (View Highlight)

The protein is a so-called transcription factor produced by almost all the nerve cells in the body that decides which genes are or are not active in the cell. It also “protects the identity of nerve cells by suppressing other developmental pathways that program a cell towards muscle or connective tissue.” (View Highlight)

The mice lacking MYT1L suffered from brain abnormalities and showed several behavioral changes typical to ASD, such as social deficits or hyperactivity. (View Highlight)

Researchers noted that the most “striking” reaction was the discovery that the MYT1L-deficient neurons produced extra sodium channels that are typically restricted to cells in the heart muscle. (View Highlight)

These promising results come as autism rates have skyrocketed in the NYC metro area. Autism diagnoses have tripled in the New York-New Jersey metro area: from 1% of the population in 2000 to 3% in 2016. (View Highlight)

But earlier, more accurate diagnoses don’t completely explain the upward trend, which was based on estimates from the CDC. Experts have warned that the growing trend of women giving birth later in life may be partly responsible for the rise. (View Highlight)