News Feature | February 19, 2014

Autism Drug Studied On Animals Has Potential For Humans

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By Marcus Johnson

Bumetanide is a drug approved for the treatment of heart and liver disease. It is now being repurposed to treat autism and researchers are in the first stages of studying the drug. Researchers would like to know if bumetanide can stop or reverse autism in children and they’ve started by testing the drug on animals such as mice and rats. Researchers found that bumetanide reversed a faulty birth mechanism that may have led to autism symptoms in offspring. The next step for researchers is to test bumetanide on children.

Researchers who have worked on the studies are optimistic. “If you administer a diuretic to the mother 24 hours before delivery, the offspring is, so to speak, cured,” said Yehezkel Ben-Ari, the study author. “What we must do is work in the development and biology earlier so we see, this is insufficient and how we can treat it earlier.”

While the study’s results are positive, it is not yet determined if the drug’s effects on animals will be similar in humans. G. Ian Gallicano, a biologist at Georgetown, is skeptical. “I think 90 percent of this paper is really earth-shattering, but there's always the caution of, 'is this going to work in humans, a more advanced mammal?’ I think you're going to have ample parents wanting to try this, if they know that their child has a genetic disorder that is going to lead to autism.”