Antioxidant to Help Reduce Repetitive Behavior in ASD

A new study from Stanford says that an antioxidant called N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC, could be used to treat some symptoms associated with autism in children.

However, this is a pilot study conducted on 31 patients from Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and researchers say that a lot more research will be needed before this treatment can be recommended for children suffering from autism.

Researchers said that the antioxidant not only lowered irritability but also reduced repetitive behavior in children.

"We're not talking about mild things: This is throwing, kicking, hitting, the child needing to be restrained. It can affect learning, vocational activities and the child's ability to participate in autism therapies," said Dr. Antonio Hardan the lead author of the new study.

"Today, in 2012, we have no effective medication to treat repetitive behavior such as hand flapping or any other core features of autism. NAC could be the first medication available to treat repetitive behavior in autism — if the findings hold up when scrutinized further," Dr. Hardan said.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD’s handle information in their brain differently than other people, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"One of the reasons I wanted to do this trial was that NAC is being used by community practitioners who focus on alternative, non-traditional therapies. But there is no strong scientific evidence to support these interventions. Somebody needs to look at them," said Hardan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at Packard Children's Hospital.

Researchers from National Institute of Health had earlier reported that they were able to reverse some core symptoms associated with autism in animal models. The agent GRN-529 increased social interaction and reduced repetitive behavior in mice, according to media reports.

The antioxidant used in the present study was different from those available over-the-counter at grocery stores, the researchers said.

The study is published in the June 1 issue of the journal Biological Psychiatry.