Autism is a developmental brain disorder that cannot be medically diagnosed and treatment can be difficult. According to a 2008 CDC study, autism affects 1 in 88 children, a number that is up 78% since 2002.
One of the many challenges has been to find treatments that are effective. Right now, Eastern Virginia Medical School is conducting clinical trials that might bring a break through in treatment. Dr. Stephen Deutsch and Dr. Maria Urbano have been studying a type of mouse that has trouble socializing. These mice have very similar symptoms to humans with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) when it comes to social interaction. The mice do not interact with other mice. But in the clinical trials, the researchers gave these socially challenged mice a drug used in TB treatment called D-Cycloserine. When the drug was administered, the mice became just as social as other mice. Dr. Urbano is developing human trials with teens and young adults (ages 14-25) who qualify for the study. If the drug has the same impact on the teens, it could really improve their social skills and quality of living.
Right now, there are no medications used to treat social impairment, a common marker of these disorders. So watching this socially impaired strain of mouse respond so positively to the medication brings hope for an effective treatment in this area of functioning. It certainly is a step to unraveling these complicated disorders.