New autism study in Houston

March 26, 2010 5:27:31 PM PDT
Doctors have suspected a link between autism and digestive problems for years. Now Houston researchers are testing a drug with such potential, that the Food and Drug Administration has fast-tracked it. Scientists believe it may improve autistic behaviors. A month ago, her mother says five-year-old Zoe wouldn't look you in the eye. Zoe, who has autism, didn't talk much, and rarely interacted others.

"Zoe is so different now. She actually comes up and talks to me, says look at this look at that, she never used to do that," said Meredith Langford.

Dr. Deborah Pearson also sees changes in Zoe too since she began taking an experimental medicine in a University of Texas-Houston study on autism.

"We don't know if she's on placebo or the study medication, but it's a very interesting difference from the little one we saw just a month ago," said Dr. Pearson.

Zoe takes the study medication mixed in her food. It helps her digest protein. Doctors believe many children with autism can't digest protein, which would cause them to lack amino acids that are critical in producing neurotransmitters for the brain. They believe resolving the digestion problem may help the autism.

"Hopefully what it will do is improve those behavioral concerns that get children into trouble at school," said Dr. Pearson.

"I want her to have a normal life," said Langford.

"I think with this medication, it'll be possible for her," said Dr. Pearson.

Houston is one of 12 study sites and the study involves collecting stool samples from the children. In early studies of almost 500 children, few had side effects. Results will take about a year. But Langford believes she's seeing results already, and she hopes the study helps other children.

"It would mean so much not just for her, but for all the other kids who are out there," said Langford.

The study is open for children with autism ages 3 to 8. For information on how to enroll your child, you can call 713-486-2591 or read more here on abc13.com.


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