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Diuretic may treat autism, study in rodents suggests

Drug that affects brain chloride levels staves off symptoms in mice and rats

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2:00pm, February 6, 2014

Curbing chloride in nerve cells could combat symptoms of autism, a study of rats and mice suggests. The results may explain why a small group of children with autism seemed to improve after taking the common diuretic bumetanide in an earlier study.

The new details of how bumetanide works, published in the Feb. 7 Science, provide important clues about how autism spectrum disorders arise in a developing brain, says Susan Connors, an autism specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston who was not involved in the study. If extended to people, the results would point to a concrete biological difference in the brains of people with autism, one that could be targeted with drugs. That would be “a great step forward,” says Connors.

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