There is new research suggesting targeting a hormone may lead to improved socialization and behavior in those with autism. The hormone known as vasopressin is being studied in both adults and children and there is reason for cautious optimism.
The children’s study looked at 30 kids ages 6 to 12 with autism and after randomly assigning some children to take a vasopressin nasal spray and others a placebo, parents and researchers observed greater increases in social abilities in those who took vasopressin. Along with showing less anxiety, the children showed improved performance on lab tests designed to measure social capabilities.
From the Science Translational Medicine journal, researchers found improvement was greatest among kids who had the highest levels of vasopressin before the study began. The treatment also appeared to diminish restricted and repetitive behaviors.
A separate study looked at 223 adult men with moderate to severe autism. A drug called balovaptan, which affects the brain’s response to vasopressin, was given to the men at four varying doses of balovaptan or a placebo for 12 weeks. While the adult trial showed no meaningful gains when the men were assessed using the Social Responsive Scale, two groups that received higher doses of the drug showed gains on a second scale examining socialization, adaptive behavior and daily living skills compared to those who received the placebo.
“Both drugs were well tolerated and had an acceptable safety profile, suggesting that modulating the vasopressin pathway may be a useful therapeutic strategy for ASD,” researchers behind both studies wrote in the journal. However a senior author of the study cautioned the public that larger trials are necessary to make sure the treatment is safe.
Click here to read more about the science behind the study.