Rapamycin for Autism

Autism and Tuberous Sclerosis , How is it linked to Rapamycin

There is some fairly new drama surrounding a drug and its potential for causing autism. Like most things, it is all hype, and you may or may not have heard about rapamycin anyway. If your child has a dual diagnosis of autism and tuberous sclerosis, then you do know why rapamycin is. It is the drug that helps shrink the tuberous growths throughout your child’s body.

The argument comes from a government study that examined the effects of this drug on lab rats. That’s right, lab rats. They were researching what the drug did for tumors, and instead concluded that it made the animals more social. It, like so many other drugs, alters the brain chemistry and some of its physiology such that the rats seemed more attractive and approachable to other rats. The key word here is seemed, since you cannot actually ask other rats what they think of their cage mates when the
cage mates were on this drug.

As with all drug research and development, lab rats are a long way from human trials, and it takes a lot of proof and study to be sure that the drug has no negative side effects on humans before a human drug trial can begin. The hope of the researchers is that rapamycin will make people with autism less socially awkward and facilitate better social interaction with their non-autistic peers, but it is years off from being tested in this fashion.

Meanwhile, parents and teachers of children with autism have to be the facilitators of social interaction for these children. It requires a lot more effort because everyone has to model social behavior and help the children with autism learn how to interact with others. There is no short cut here, and it is hard work, but many children with mild to moderate autism learn how to act, interact and react to what others say and do in correct ways, something which they would still have to do if they were taking
rapamycin.

The conclusion here is that there is no quick fix and no cure just yet. There is still the overwhelming task of teaching kids and adults how to interact even if there was a quick fix, and parents of children with autism would have to make the decision to place their children on this drug for life. If your child already takes it for tuberous sclerosis, then the decision is a simple one because your child really needs it. If not, then it becomes a choice between forcing your child to change and become social, or remain in his or her own quiet, little world.

The effects on children with moderate to severe autism are even more of an unknown, since most of these children do not want to be touched nor do they seek out affection. Given that there are so many medical hurdles to cross before anyone can find out, you do better by your child teaching him or her how to respond to others. That is better than any pill you can make him or her take.

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