Indian researchers develop better therapeutics to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder

New Delhi: A group of Indian researchers have developed a compound called ‘6BIO’ that can provide a better method to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The researchers have determined the potency of the compound in a pre-clinical mice model. This is the first compound that has been proved in pre-clinical evaluation to have the potential for improving daily activities like learning and recollecting new tasks in patients with ASD/intellectual disability (ID).

Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the major issues facing the society. Yet, there is no appropriate pharmacological or genetic method to treat ASD/ID. The current therapeutics to treat ASD aims to alleviate symptoms such as epileptic seizures or sleep issues, but not to treat the multiple problems of ASD/ID.

“A major challenge in finding better therapeutics to treat ASD is the potency of the drug to help the patients perform their daily activities with efficiency close to that of a healthy person. Achieving this is particularly difficult after a certain age, especially from the mid-childhood stages,” a release from the Ministry of Science & Technology said on Tuesday.

In the present work, Vijaya Verma and other authors from the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous research institute under the Department of Science & Technology (DST), have demonstrated the potential of 6BIO to treat ASD/ID in a pre-clinical mouse model called Syngap1+/-.

Using behaviour and electrophysiology techniques, the team of scientists have shown in their research — published in the journal Experimental Brain Research — that the administration of 6BIO restores the neuronal function, learning and memory, and reduces epileptic seizures in Syngap1+/- mice, the release said.

The authors of this study, Vijaya Verma, M.J. Vijay Kumar, Kavita Sharma, Sridhar Rajaram, Ravi Muddashetty, Ravi Manjithaya, Thomas Behnisch and James P. Clement identified 6BIO synthesised in JNCASR and found that it restores neuronal function, learning and memory, sociability besides reducing epileptic seizures.

The other novelty of this study is that 6BIO restores the neural functions not only when administered during development (equivalent to baby of 1-2 years) and childhood stages (3-6 years), but also after mid-childhood (7-11 years) when most of the brain regions are considered to have formed properly.

Previous studies had attributed disruption in optimal brain development, mainly neuronal connections, during the early stage of development (i.e., babies/childhood) as one of the causes of ASD/ID. Due to the altered brain development, information processing becomes aberrant and understanding simple tasks becomes exceptionally challenging for patients with ASD/ID.

Using electrophysiology, which helps understand how neurons communicate, and behavioural experiments, which indicate the overall brain function, the JNCASR team has shown that 6BIO can restore information processing in the pre-clinical mouse model. Thus, 6BIO has a strong potential for therapeutics to treat ASD/ID.

All the behaviour and electrophysiology work were performed at Dr James Clement’s lab in JNCASR, the release said.