A new weapon in the fight against Autism Spectrum Disorder could come via psilocybin.
Researchers at Vancouver Nova Mentis Life Science Corp are looking at another potential benefit of psychedelics like psilocybin: treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). The new study, approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) in the United States, is expected to receive Canadian approval as well.
According to Nova Mentis researchers will look at serotonin signaling, which is connected with psychedelic effects. It's part of what Nova Mentis says is an effort to illuminate “the neural underpinnings of social dysfunctions” in ASD.
“We are developing this set of multidimensional biomarkers to help differentiate subsets of symptomatic, as well as pre-symptomatic, ASD and FXS patients – an approach that currently does not exist in clinical practice,” Julia V. Perederiy, PhD, NOVA's Lead Scientist and Principal Investigator on the study, said in a statement. “Furthermore, we will use the index to subsegment participants in upcoming Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials of NOVA's proprietary psilocybin formulation – an essential step for study design and development of hard endpoints to corroborate clinical results.”
The study will recruit 300 participants in the U.S. and 200 in Canada diagnosed with ASD or FXS. The researchers will look at serotonin levels and bacterial species in the gut and compare with control samples.
ASD treatment has seen a number of potential candidates including CBD. But psychedelics are emerging as a new option. MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, has looked at MDMA as a treatment for social anxiety in adults with ASD. That study involved 12 patients and “demonstrated rapid and durable improvement in social anxiety symptoms,” MAPS noted in Psychopharmacology in 2018.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 59 children has autism. ASD is more common among boys—three to four times higher than in girls. While a number of treatments exist, there is currently no cure for autism or ASD conditions.