MAR 05, 2018 06:28 PM PST

First Medication Claimed to Treat Symptoms of Autism Enters Clinical Trial

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

 

Autism is a form of mental disorder characterized mainly by the impaired ability to communicate and form social relationships as well as by patterns of repetitive behavior. The most obvious sign of autism appears at around the age of 2 to 4 years old with cases diagnosed at just 18 months.

 

 

Autism is a spectrum disorder (or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)) that includes challenges with communication, speech, and behavior. It is a disorder that cannot be pinned to a single factor, and several areas of research have concluded it may be due to a combination of genetics and environment. Thus, not one ASD individual is like the other. “My perspective is that people with autism are different, just like every other human being — unique, one of a kind,” Dr. Roger Jou of the Yale Child Study Center.

 

Image via AutismSpeaks.org

 

With such mystery to the basis of ASD and variations of clinical features, autism remains difficult to find a cure and treatments options are personalized from behavioral therapy to medications. Most of the medications on the current market are developed to decrease behavioral issues such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and mood disorders. But, no such medication currently exists that seeks to treat the main features of autism.

In fact, there exists only two drugs approved by the FDA for autism: risperidone and aripiprazole. However, these recommended medications are also used for the treatment of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Their role in autism is to decrease irritability and aggression mainly to maintain safe behavior in some children.

Now, a recently developed drug may be the first medication to treat symptoms of autism and increase the ability of autistic individuals to connect with others. This drug is known as balovaptan which was developed by the pharmaceutical company Roche and is currently being investigated at a nationwide clinical trial. The principal investigator for the clinical study at Yale, Dr. Jou, claims that the “The core symptoms of autism are deficits or challenges with social interaction, communication, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors.” Therefore, with this new clinical drug, balovaptan, it will be able to repair interactive and communicative behaviors in ASD individuals and better the quality of their life. “Everything we do kind of relies on one’s ability to interact with others. So, anything that could help with that could potentially lead to a benefit,” says Dr. Jou.

This clinical trial named the “aViation study”; includes Yale University as a participant along with other nationwide sites. Investigators will administer the drug to autistic individuals seeking to examine if balovaptan holds true in the treatment of social interactions. The aViation study is particularly investigating if balovaptan will treat the known autistic symptoms by acting as a receptor antagonist. The molecular mechanism of balovaptan is believed to stop the receptors in the brain from binding to molecule known vasopressin, V1a. Dr. Jou believes that if this receptor is blocked in an autistic individual then “their social behaviors will improve”. This claim comes from a demonstration in animal studies as well studies on humans, where controlling the levels vasopressin in correlation with a receptor antagonist has improved social behaviors.

Balovaptan was given an accelerated status to enter a clinical trial as well as named a “breakthrough therapy” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Such urgency for balovaptan to be investigated parallels the need to find a treatment for autism.

Sources: New Haven Register, Roche, Autism Speaks

About the Author
  • Nouran enjoys writing on various topics including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
You May Also Like
OCT 16, 2018
Drug Discovery
OCT 16, 2018
Immunotherapeutic Targets A Blood-Clotting Protein
Fibrin is a blood protein that normally does not cross to the brain, however, several neurological disorders have a defect in the blood-brain barrier that ...
NOV 30, 2018
Immunology
NOV 30, 2018
Aspirin May Impove MS Symptoms
The medical benefits of aspirin have been known since ancient times. Hippocrates, c. 400 BC, prescribed the salicylate-rich bark and leaves of the willow t...
DEC 09, 2018
Drug Discovery
DEC 09, 2018
Insect Venom Can Someday Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Infections
Insect venom, such as those secreted by wasps and bees, are considered an insect’s immune system defense because of its richness in bacterial killing...
DEC 16, 2018
Health & Medicine
DEC 16, 2018
Important Biomedical Research At Risk Of Being Defunded
In September the Department of Health and Human Services (D.H.H.S.) released a statement citing “serious regulatory, moral and ethical considerations...
JAN 24, 2019
Drug Discovery
JAN 24, 2019
Drug Blocks Toxic-Protein Production in ALS
Individuals with ALS, frontotemporal dementia, carry a mutation in the gene C9orf72—resulting in repeated DNA sequences. These repetitions result in ...
FEB 01, 2019
Cardiology
FEB 01, 2019
Parents Prefer Opioids For Their Children Despite Risks
Opioid abuse has become an epidemic in the United States. It is estimated that 72,000 deaths were the result of opioid abuse in 2017. The hardest hit state...
Loading Comments...