Arkansas Children’s research finds folinic acid benefits autism effects

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 260 views 

Doctors at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute (ACRI) in Little Rock, have found promising effects from prescribing folinic acid to help autistic children improve their language and communication skills through a small study done in Arkansas, according to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Folinic acid, which is a reduced form of B vitamin known as folate, was prescribed in a placebo-controlled trial at the ACRI that resulted in better verbal communication when the folinic acid was received versus the placebo, said Dr. Richard Frye, a pediatric neurologist and director of autism research at ACRI.

He adds that the findings should be considered preliminary until the treatment has been assessed further in larger long-term studies. Fry said the findings were positive, but cautions that more research is needed in order to replicate the findings in a larger population.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S, according to the Center for Disease Control. ARCI said up to 2% of American children are said to experience symptoms that place them on the autism spectrum.

Frye said many of these children have difficulty communicating and interacting with others, especially within a social setting. Researchers do not yet fully understand all the reasons behind the development of ASD and, importantly, there are currently no approved treatments that address the core symptoms or biological processes that may underlie the development of this complex disorder.

“Currently the only FDA-approved medications for autism are antipsychotic medications that address irritability and aggressive behavior — which are common symptoms associated with autism, but are not core features of what defines autism,” said John Slattery, co-author of the study and a clinical research program manager at ACRI and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). “These medications can often lead to unwanted side effects such as increased weight gain and increased risk for type II diabetes and obesity. These mediations also don’t address the biological processes involved in autism which may promote the disorder’s defining behavioral features.”

Scientific research has linked this disorder to abnormalities in the metabolism of folate as well as genes that are involved in folate metabolism. Certain studies have also shown that the offspring of women who took folate supplements before conception and during pregnancy had a lower risk of having a child with ASD, according to Slattery.

Research in this area has been around for about a decade when a condition known as cerebral folate deficiency was found where concentrations of folate is below normal in the central nervous system, but not in the blood. The doctors said children with CFD as well as autism have responded well to treatment with high-dose folinic acid.

Frye’s research program has been supported, in part, by funds from the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, the major research component of the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act of 2000.

The study, which is published in Springer Nature’s journal Molecular Psychiatry, also identified a specific blood marker that can be used to predict which patients have the best chance to respond to the treatment.

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