What treatments are lacking sufficient evidence for autism?

This week two new publications reported on systematic reviews for nutritional and sensory treatments for ASD.  This means the existing research was sorted, summarized, scrutinized and evaluated.  They found insufficient evidence to show any dietary or nutritional therapy was effective, but sufficient evidence that sensory integration therapy helps people with ASD.  In light of new data on heavy metals found in baby teeth, it’s important to remember that chelation is NOT effective and dangerous.  While “insufficient evidence” does not rule out these interventions forever and always, lots more needs to be done in these areas to conduct rigorous experiments that don’t have any major shortcomings so they hold up to scrutiny.

Oops the media did it again…

Last week CNN.com reported on a study that showed slight improvement of autism symptoms in children that received a single infusion of their own umbilical cord blood.  While the study was interesting, the authors were the first to acknowledge the limitations, however, this did not stop the media from misrepresenting the results.  Details are explained in this podcast.  In addition, a big win this week for precision or personalized medicine:  different symptoms and different genetic mutations are linked to different outcomes from different anti-seizure medications.

New science for those with little or no language

Even though more than 20% of people with autism have little or no language, research into ways to help this group have really been lacking.  Several efforts to not just understand the abilities and disabilities of this group started a few years ago and we are just starting to hear about what works and what doesn’t work to improve communication in those with little or no language.  This podcast summarizes the evidence, which points to combinations of things, rather than things in isolation, and peeks in on ways in which interventions can be better directed and made more effective.

A message for MLK’s birthday and a better way diagnose anxiety

Happy MLK day – a day when we recognize a man for his contribution in justice, tolerance, equality and service, I highlight a supreme court case which affects how those with special needs are fighting for justice and equality.   Also, over the holidays, Dr. Connor Kerns from Drexel University published how a new tool to diagnose anxiety in those with autism was validated, setting the stage for its use by physicians and clinicians who don’t have a lot of experience with autism to help better understand the symptoms of their patients.

Precision medicine presents: OXYTOCIN!!!

Overall, the scientific research examining the efficacy of oxytocin treatment in autism spectrum disorder has been mixed.  On a previous podcast, studies in the way the oxytocin receptor was turned on and off were explained which may account for variability in treatment response.  This week, two studies in Japan show that specific mutations in the oxytocin receptor product predict who will respond to oxytocin treatment and who will not.  Therefore, the oxytocin story is one of the first examples of using genetic findings to push better treatment on an individual level, otherwise known as precision medicine.

The importance if IQ in an autism outcome.

Cognitive ability, measured by intellectual quotient or IQ, has been thought to predict response to intervention, social abilities, adaptive behavior and long term outcome.  Numerous studies have shown that it can influence what is labeled as a good outcome.  However, two studies this week point out how those across the spectrum in cognitive ability still benefit from early intervention and make friends on the playground.  In both studies, there were factors that were more important for outcome than IQ.  So it may be an important factor in outcome, but not the only factor.

IGF-1 might be the next big thing in autism treatment

This week’s podcast summarizes a new neural stem cell study and a recent review article on IGF-1 treatment in developmental disorders. IGF stands for Insulin Growth Factor and is essential for generation of new neurons, and shaping and health of existing neurons.  Patients with autism spectrum disorder are already starting to be treated with IGF-1, and now there is even more evidence validating it as a target.  If you are interested in participating in a research trial at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine using IGF-1, call the Seaver Center at  212-241-0961.