Search for treatment options
Of controversial therapies and potential medicationsRead out
If autism is diagnosed, the search for suitable therapy offers begins. As a rule, the treatment of developmental disability is based on behavioral and therapeutic approaches. An attempt is made to reduce the disruptive and socially inappropriate behaviors and to strengthen the social and communicative abilities of those affected.In behavioral therapy, the social and communicative abilities of the autistic are to be promoted. © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / istock
Extreme forms of such therapies are, however, controversial among some autistic individuals: they criticize the fact that they are forced to act in ways that contradict their nature. In fact, many people with Asperger's Syndrome do not want treatment at all. They do not consider themselves ill, but simply "non-neurotypical."
Nevertheless, the search for new treatment options continues beyond behavioral therapy. For while people with mild forms of developmental disorder may appreciate the autistic as part of their personality and lead a contented life with all their peculiarities, those with severe forms of early childhood autism and their families could benefit from therapies. For them, the diagnosis means that they need life-long help and support.
Anticancer drug misused
In the investigation of potential therapeutic approaches, a cancer drug has recently become the focus of the medical profession. It has been known that some of the autologous epigenetic changes in the genome also increase the risk for tumors. "It was therefore almost natural to alienate an epigenetically effective cancer drug for the treatment of autism, " said study author Zhen Yan of the State University of New York in Buffalo.
This is exactly what the research team did with Romidepsin - and achieved amazing results. At least in mice, the drug apparently managed to correct certain expression errors in the genome. As a result, some of the abnormalities of social behavior typical of the developmental disorder disappeared in the animals treated with the agent. displayYoung Java macaque - these primates will serve as an animal model for autism in the future. © Rocky89 / istock
A new animal model
Despite some promising results, research on new therapeutic approaches is difficult overall. This is also because so far a good animal model was missing. But that could have changed now: Scientists have recently equipped with the Genscher CRISPR / Cas9 Java monkeys with gene mutations that occur in some autistic individuals. The brain of these macaques is very similar to the human - so they are better suited for medical studies than mice.
As a result of the procedure, the monkeys developed behavioral problems such as repetitive behavior and the avoidance of eye contact. In addition, the affected animals spent less time on social activities such as playing or grooming. But the monkeys did not just resemble human autistics. In her brain too, the changes that are typical for those affected showed the functional connectivity of individual brain areas.
According to the researchers, these monkeys may thus be suitable as a future animal model for autism and help to develop effective therapies. "We still do not know if we can use this model to develop new treatments, but we hope to find that out in the next few years, " she concludes.
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- Daniel Albat