Common Anti-Diarrhea Medication May Help Treat Core Symptoms of Autism

Researchers searched present medication, hunting for likely therapies for the core indications of autism spectrum disorder. The most promising just one they identified is referred to as loperamide, better recognized by the model name Imodium, which is usually used for diarrhea.

Review is the initially to use protein conversation networks to review regardless of whether existing medication could treat autism, acquiring potential in a common antidiarrheal drug.

There are now no helpful treatment plans for the core signs and symptoms of autism spectrum ailment (ASD), these as challenges with socializing and communicating. A new research employs a computer-based protein conversation community to determine irrespective of whether existing medications could supply a new treatment method technique. The researchers found that a typical anti-diarrheal drug may well have prospective in treating the social complications connected with ASD.

Can you teach an old drug new methods? Drug therapies for the main indications of autism spectrum dysfunction (ASD) are not currently available. On the other hand, could an present drug deliver a new treatment method, even if it formerly had no affiliation with ASD? This was the query requested by a new research that was released on September 12 in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology. The scientists employed a laptop design that encompasses proteins included in ASD and the way they interact.

They determined possible candidates to address ASD by wanting at how distinctive medicine influenced proteins in the system. A normally used antidiarrheal drug known as loperamide was the most promising prospect, and the researchers have an attention-grabbing hypothesis about how it may perhaps work to treat ASD signs or symptoms. Some of the most widespread signs or symptoms of ASD entail complications with social interaction and conversation.

“There are no medicines at the moment authorised for the treatment method of social communication deficits, the key symptom in ASD,” said Dr. Elise Koch. She is the lead creator of the research and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Scientific Medicine at the

Repurposing drugs as new treatments

In an effort to find a new way to treat ASD, the researchers turned to drug repurposing. This involves exploring existing drugs as potential treatments for a different condition. There are many benefits to this approach, as there is often extensive knowledge about existing drugs in terms of their safety, side effects, and the biological molecules that they interact with inside the body.

Loperamide is a medicine to treat short-term diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is more commonly known by the brand name Imodium, and is available over-the-counter (nonprescription). It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

To identify new treatments for ASD, the scientists used a computer-based protein interaction network. Such networks encompass proteins and the complex interactions between them. It is important to account for this complexity when studying biological systems, as affecting one protein can often have knock-on effects elsewhere.

The investigators constructed a protein interaction network that included proteins associated with ASD. By investigating existing drugs and their interaction with proteins in the network, the team identified several candidates that counteract the biological process underlying ASD.

The most promising drug is called loperamide, which is commonly used for diarrhea. Although it might seem strange that an anti-diarrheal drug could treat core ASD symptoms, the scientists have developed a hypothesis about how it may work.

From an upset gastrointestinal system to ASD

Loperamide binds to and activates a protein called the μ-opioid receptor, which is normally affected by opioid drugs, such as morphine. Along with the effects that you would normally expect from an opioid drug, such as pain relief, the μ-opioid receptor also affects social behavior.

In previous studies, genetically engineered mice that lack the μ-opioid receptor demonstrated social deficits similar to those seen in ASD. Interestingly, drugs that activate the μ-opioid receptor helped to restore social behaviors.

These results in mice highlight the tantalizing possibility that loperamide, or other drugs that target the μ-opioid receptor, may represent a new way to treat the social symptoms present in ASD. However, further work is required to test this hypothesis. In any case, the current study demonstrates the power of assuming that old drugs may indeed learn new tricks.   

Reference: “Drug repurposing candidates to treat core symptoms in autism spectrum disorder” by Elise Koch and Ditte Demontis, 12 September 2022, Frontiers in Pharmacology.
DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2022.995439