Autism Spectrum Disorder, more commonly referred to as simply “autism” is a disease that almost every person has heard of. Whether it is a personal relationship with a child or friend or something as distant as simply having seen the movie “Rain Man”, it is not an illness that is not sliding under the radar of the average person. In fact, it is the fastest growing developmental disease in the world with a 10 – 17% growth rate annually according to the Autism Society of America. It is estimated that at least 1.5 million Americans suffer from autism spectrum disorder to some degree.
Autism, as a term, covers a wide array of symptoms that are displayed through behavior disorders such as impaired social, imagination and communication skills. It is often characterized by repetitive actions of very restricted focus. In many cases, as is often what is typified through the media, the symptoms are severe and leave the afflicted person with a very limited ability to participate in any sort of “normal” daily routines. In medical terms, autism falls into the class of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).
What causes autism? Sciences and theories have come a long way since the 1930’s concept of mother’s neglecting their kids, aka “Refrigerator Mothers”, being one of the causes of autism. Vaccines have also been labeled a cause over the years, but there is great debates regarding the validity of this being proven also. To date, there has yet to be any definitive answers, but research has proven several facts about physiological aspects of the autistic brain. One of these is lower levels of serotonin, a phenolic amine neurotransmitter, which is integral to controlling several body functions such as appetite, sleep, mood, aspects of sensory perception, body-temperature regulation and the rate at which hormones are released.
The good news is that there is hope. A small, biotechnology company, Cellceutix Corporation, is making strides with their research on treatments for autism. Founded in 2007 by George W. Evans, former General Counsel for Pfizer’s worldwide prescription drug unit, and Dr. Krishna Menon, an acclaimed researcher with Eli Lilly, Cellceutix acquired the rights to KM-391 in December of 2009 and is using this compound as the basis for their research. Preliminary studies on Wistar rat pups have been completed wherein Dr. Menon injected the rats at birth to experimentally alter their brains to simulate the characteristics of autism. The were then treated and observed for 90 days. Without going into too many scientific details, the results were positive with respect to the treatment working to raising serotonin levels, decreasing brain plasticity (another important aspect of the autistic brain) and overall actions of the rat pups. Cellceutix is moving forward with IND filings with the FDA to progress to clinical testing on human patients.
This can be ground-breaking technology for autism. While the behaviors associated with autism are great and come on a variety of levels, there are some common characteristics that run true throughout the disease. The research of companies like Cellceutix is providing even more hope that one day in the near future there will be a solid treatment for the symptoms of autism.
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