Scientists 'treat' autism symptoms for the first time thanks to cheap epilepsy drug | The Sun

SCIENTISTS have said that a cheap epilepsy drug could help 'treat' autism-like symptoms.

Autism is a condition whereby those who have it will often act in a different way to other people.

The NHS states there is no cure for the condition, with patients usually being supported with their developmental skills.

This could include helping them manage harmful behaviours and helping them develop their communication skills.

Now medics have said using epilepsy medication could be a 'breakthrough' for those who have autism.

The £2.50 pill works by reversing changes to brain cells which are caused by genetic mutations.

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Medics at the Hector Institute for Translational Brain Research in Germany said Lamotrigine, brand name Lamictal, curbed behavioural issues linked to autism.

Previous studies have shown that people with autism have mutations that switch of the gene MYT1L.

Dr Moritz Mall, lead author of the study said: "Apparently, drug treatment in adulthood can alleviate brain cell dysfunction and thus counteract the behavioral abnormalities typical of autism.

"However, the results are still limited to studies in mice; clinical studies in patients with disorders from the ASD spectrum have not yet been conducted.

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"The first clinical studies are in the early planning phase," he added.

During the trial, the MYT1L protein was 'switched off' in the mice to mimic the condition of a person with autism.

They found that those without MYT1L had more brain abnormalities.

They also struggled with hyperactivity, the researchers said.

Lamotrigine is currently used by the NHS to treat conditions such as epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

Seizures are bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works. Lamotrigine slows these electrical signals down to stop seizures, the NHS states.

For those with autism, the drug helps partially block sodium channels so only a small amount passes through.

The NHS states that your GP or local autism team will suggest approaches to treatment that might help you or your child if you have been diagnosed.

What are the signs and symptoms of autism?

The NHS outlines the signs of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in school-age children.

Spoken language

  • preferring to avoid using spoken language
  • speech that sounds very monotonous or flat
  • speaking in pre-learned phrases, rather than putting together individual words to form new sentences
  • seeming to talk "at" people, rather than sharing a two-way conversation

Responding to others

  • taking people’s speech literally and being unable to understand sarcasm, metaphors or figures of speech
  • reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else

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Interacting with others

  • not being aware of other people’s personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space
  • little interest in interacting with other people, including children of a similar age, or having few close friends, despite attempts to form friendships
  • not understanding how people normally interact socially, such as greeting people or wishing them farewell
  • being unable to adapt the tone and content of their speech to different social situations – for example, speaking very formally at a party and then speaking to total strangers in a familiar way
  • not enjoying situations and activities that most children of their age enjoy
  • rarely using gestures or facial expressions when communicating
  • avoiding eye contact


  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking their fingers
  • playing in a repetitive and unimaginative way, often preferring to play with objects rather than people
  • developing a highly specific interest in a particular subject or activity
  • preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to their normal routine
  • having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour of the food as much as the taste
  • unusual sensory interests – for example, children with ASD may sniff toys, objects or people inappropriately

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