This could be the Mama Bear coming out in me (gosh, it really must be because I HATE the term Mama Bear), but this so-called experiment and drug GRN-529 (article pressed below with link) that supposedly reduces autistic symptoms in mice rubs me completely the wrong way. The article is very careful to refrain from calling GRN-529 a cure and to state that it’s treating… no wait… REVERSING symptoms of autism, such as making the mice more sociable and minimizing obsessive-compulsive behaviors. But tagging it as a drug that specifically reduces ASD symptoms… especially when those qualities are present in so many other different disorders and are so often simply personality quirks in people… it bothers me as a whole.
Of course there’s the whole “messing with the synapses and neurotransmitters of the brain” thing. Considering these mice weren’t actually given autism, since that’s impossible, but that they were manually given symptoms that’s one of my reservations with this experiment. I also have issues with the mice being inbred on top of their manufactured “symptoms.” Maybe that’s a mountain out of a molehill, and I can’t quite articulate right now why that one bothers me so very much, but it does. I think it’s also a bit disingenuous to claim that it’s not trying to cure ASD when it’s attempting to target the neurotransmitters the way that they would.
Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not against medications when they’re warranted. I’m not against researching Autism Spectrum Disorders and all of the surrounding issues. I think part of what’s bothering me is that the more I learn, the more it seems to me that ASD is a collection of neurological differences and disorders. I believe that at its core, ASD is genetically based and ASD’s affect a wide array of neurological issues.
The behaviors can be so very difficult to deal with as a family, as a parent, and especially the child who becomes a teen and later an adult. The destructive behaviors in high functioning individuals should be approached on an individual basis. I worry, I think, that a drug like GRN-529 might end up being something that is “pushed” much the way ADHD medications are pushed for highly active and spirited children that aren’t actually ADHD. Don’t like the symptom? Drug it up even if it’s not therapeutic. Let’s make everyone else’s lives easier. That might sound contradictory coming from me, since we have Gracie (my darling 3rd grader who has Autism) on a low dose of an ADD medication along with her seizure medication. She’s able to concentrate and work at school. She’s been better able to follow directions. In her own way she has commented on her improved ability to focus, and that she likes that feeling. She has less anxiety while at school because of it. She has less anxiety about bed time than she used to (granted it’s still there, but not like before). We’re also in the decision-making process for our eldest daughter regarding her ADHD. It’s not easy making these decisions and figuring out if what we’re considering tips the scales in “we’re doing this for her and not for us” favor.
This particular bit of mouse research feels a bit misdirected. I know that the research itself is much more complicated than the article is laying it out to be, but ASD is so much more than that area of the brain. It’s so much more than OCD and social awkwardness. So maybe my feeling is that this bit of research is missing the point more than anything else.
Or maybe I’m over-reacting or misunderstanding or being overly critical or (gasp) all three.
- Experimental Drug Improves Autism-Like Symptoms in Mice (abcnews.go.com)
- Agent reduces autism-like behaviors in mice (naturenplanet.com)
- Experimental Drug Eases Autistic Behaviors in Mice (news.health.com)