A couple of new clinical tests suggest that a hormone-based treatment might better social function in people with autism. Both tests focused on vasopressin, a hormone that has been involved in the brain’s activity to conduct social behavior. Lead researcher Karen Parker, Director of Stanford University’s Social. Neuroscience Research Program said that in the first trial, vasopressin was used as a nasal spray, and it aided in enhancing social responsiveness in children with autism.
Hormone-based Treatment Might Help People With Autism
Senior researcher Dr. Paulo Fontoura, Vice President of Neuroscience and Rare Diseases Clinical Development at Roche Pharmaceuticals explained that the second test did not implicate vasopressin itself, but a new drug that activates the brain receptors intended by the hormone. The researchers reportedly said that men with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who took the drug, balovaptan, had a clinically important improvement in their social behaviors.
Balovaptan has the capability to ‘improve the core characteristics of social interaction and communications in adults with ASD,” Fontoura explained in a statement. Previous research in animals and people has revealed that vasopressin aids in promoting social behavior in mammals, Parker said. Parker and her fellow colleagues gave vasopressin nasal spray to 17 kids with autism and another 13 kids with an inactive placebo spray for a total of four weeks.
The children given the vasopressin revealed improved social behavior as measured by a standardized test called the Social Responsiveness Scale. The patients also showed enhancement in social communications, had minimal symptoms related to autism such as repetitive patterns of behavior and anxiety, and were better to understand the emotional and mental state of others.
The second clinical trial with balovaptan involved 223 men with medium and severe autism, researchers reported. The patients were divided into four groups and were administrated either balovaptan at different dosages or a placebo every day for 12 weeks.
High Doses of Balovaptan Might Help in Autism
The study authors said that the men did not show any important enhancement as measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale, but two patient groups receiving higher doses of balovaptan showed improvements measured by another rank that evaluates socialization, adaptive behavior and day to day living skills, in comparison to those who got a placebo.
Both Parker and Fontoura said that the medications did not cause any significant side effects and produced no safety concerns. However, Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., said that even if these two studies might suggest that treatment to rise vasopressin levels in the brain may aid some patients with ASD, a lot more research is needed in terms of long-term benefit and safety of this kind of drug.
Vasopressin is already accessible by prescription, as an antidiuretic utilized to treat extreme frequent urination. Adesman said that families and physicians need to be cautious in utilizing this drug just based on a single short-term study, and more research should be conducted before it could be comfortable for physicians to recommend vasopressin as a safe and effective treatment for children with ASD.
Both studies are currently in the second stage of clinical tests, vasopressin being tested in a larger group of 100 children, and balovaptan being the focus of two clinical tests, stage II study in children and teenagers and a stage III in adults. The latest study findings were published on May 1 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.