Drug fails in autism study

In the most extensive test so far of its capability to treat autism, the controversial drug secretin has failed to help children with the neurological disorder.

On Jan. 5, Repligen of Waltham, Mass., the biotech company seeking to develop secretin for use against autism, announced the disappointing results of its latest trial, which involved 132 children.

A protein that occurs naturally in the gut, secretin gained notice as a potential autism cure in 1998, when news media reported a case in which the substance seemingly cured an autistic boy. Neuroscientists were pleasantly surprised when they later discovered in rodent studies that nerve cells in brain regions implicated in autism respond to secretin, a finding that offered a biological rationale for a gut protein influencing autism (SN: 11/17/01, p. 314: Available to subscribers at The Science of Secretin).

Although Repligen didn’t rule out further tests of secretin for some people with autism, the company said it also plans to investigate the protein as a treatment for schizophrenia.


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