Is there a link between serotonin and autism
(06/17/2020) -- One in 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or, ASD. The cost of care is expected to exceed 400 billion dollars by 2025. Now, groundbreaking research involving a brain chemical is showing great promise in the lab!
Pam Minelli’s son, Andrew, was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.
“He’s non-verbal, but he’s a lover boy," stated Minelli, Board Member, Els for Autism Foundation.
Like most parents of children with autism, the hope is for treatment or therapy that can help bring them out of their shell.
“The work that we do on the brain focuses on certain brain chemicals,” shared Randy Blakely, PhD, a professor at Florida Atlantic University.
Professor Blakely and his team study how certain brain chemicals may play a role in behavior.
“There’s a significant fraction of individuals with autism, about 25 percent, that show elevated serotonin in the blood,” continued Blakely.
That made them wonder how this mood-regulating hormone may affect early brain development.
“What role might it play in early developmental disorders that involve the brain,” Blakely said.
Scientists found faster elimination of serotonin in mice caused repetitive traits and other behavioral symptoms of ASD.
Blakely offered, “This can affect how circuits wire up in the brain.”
They used an experimental drug that reduces inflammation.
“We now gave the drug to our mice and their behavior normalized. I think we found a very important pathway in the brain,” Blakely exclaimed.
The hope is this will lead to a drug that will manage the symptoms of ASD.
“I think about how the kids may act differently in their own way,” shared Vincent Cardone, a graduate from the Els Center of Excellence.
These ASD students are looking forward to their future.
“I would love to be a movie director, writer and producer,” said Anthony Ezzolo, a student at the Els Center of Excellence.
The experimental drug is in phase one trials. Researchers say the next step could be clinical trials with adults on the spectrum. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health.