Medical Minute 12-24: Unraveling the Cause of Autism

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Zoe Langford lives in the background. Such a loner for so long, mom and dad were worried. Then, she was diagnosed with Autism.

"She's very bright, very sweet; the problem is with communication," said Kevin Langford, Zoe's Father.

She's enrolled in a controversial clinical trial at the University of Texas where kids are fed an enzyme to help aide in protein digestion.

"There are many ways we can treat children with autism, but this one is a different approach," said Deborah A. Pearson, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas UT Health.

Doctor Deborah Pearson says autistic kids simply don't accept protein well. Studies show 70 percent have gastro-intestinal problems. Better protein digestion may create amino acids, which could boost brain function.

"They'll be able to learn better, they'll be able to, you know, behave better," said Deborah A. Pearson, Ph.D.

Zoe's parents see a change.

"I notice a lot more talking, a lot more communicating. I just think she's come out of her shell," said Kevin Langford.

Some experts are skeptical of the treatment, but the FDA approved the final phase of the trial, looking to see if the enzyme improves communicative problems, social deficits and digestive problems. There are 12 trial sites testing 170 kids between ages three and eight.

"If it can help us and our child, just imagine what it could do for those extremely autistic children."

For Zoe alone, it's a new way of looking at the world.


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