It’s not about THC, it’s about CBD (cannabinoids)

Parents of children with seizures are desperate to find something that will at the very least reduce the frequency of seizures in their kids.  Answers came in an unlikely place two months ago with the publication of a randomized clinical trial showing that seizures could be reduced with use of cannabinoids in kids with a condition called Dravet’s Syndrome.  Cannabinoids are one of the chemicals found in marijuana, and there are anecdotal reports on the use of marijuana or cannabinoids to treat autism.  Unlike THC, CBD (cannabinoids) do not cause euphoria or any psychoactive effects and are used exclusively for medicinal reasons.  This podcast summarizes current literature and also explains why it is so hard to study cannabinoids, including federal and state regulations and what needs to happen to open up this field of science

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.

When can you see autism in the brain?

This week the Infant Brain Imaging Study, or IBIS, published it’s 2nd study on the emergence of changes in the brains of individuals with autism.  While red flags for autism can be seen early, a diagnosis of autism is not typically made until after 24 months of age. Using a baby sibling research design, scientists showed increases in the size of certain areas of the brain between 6-12 months.  This opens up opportunities for even earlier diagnosis of ASD in the future.   Also, a group at Stanford shows the emergence and disappearance of co-morbid symptoms in autism, such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and ADHD, which are dependent on sex and age.  Together, these studies show that autism begins very very early and symptoms and behavioral and biological features change over time.

Another gene that causes autism and what families are doing about it

A gene that controls electrical activity in the brain, SCN2A, has been linked to autism for awhile.  But recently, a new study from China shows that mutations of this gene are seen in about 1% of people with autism.  This may put it into the category of the rare mutations that have a major contribution to autism symptoms.   In addition to autism, mutations of these gene are associated with seizures and epilepsy.  Because of the relatively high rates of mutations of this gene in autism and epilepsy, an amazing group of motivated families formed an organization to help support and awareness for this gene mutation.  This week’s podcast includes a message from one of the leaders of this foundation:  FamileSCN2A who are dedicated to help their children with the knowledge about their child’s genetic makeup.

Autism and Epilepsy – a brain tissue perspective

On October 14th, the Autism BrainNet hosted it’s first webinar around how brain tissue findings affect people with autism.  First, Shafali Jeste, MD, from UCLA explained what seizures were, how prevalent they were in people with autism, and what the risk factors for them were in ASD.  Next, David Menassa from Oxford University described recent findings in brain tissue which showed how glia cells, or the cells of the brain that support neurons, are affected in ASD and how epilepsy affects these changes.  The introduction of the webinar is missing but only for a few seconds.   Thank you to Drs. Jeste and Menassa for participating in such a great informational event and for everyone that registered.