A recent study conducted at 32 clinical sites, including UTHealth Houston, has found that the use of high-protease pancreatic replacement therapy can lead to improvement in maladaptive behaviors in preschool children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study, published in JAMA Network Open, aimed to determine whether these behaviors, such as irritability, could be addressed with a low-risk intervention.
Dr. Deborah A. Pearson, the lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, explained that many children with ASD are selective about their food choices, often favoring carbohydrates over protein. However, certain amino acids necessary for building neurotransmitters that affect behavior and cognitive function can only be obtained through protein digestion.
The study involved 190 children between the ages of 3 and 6. In the double-blind phase of the trial, 92 children were given 900 mg of a microencapsulated high-protease pancreatic porcine enzyme sprinkled on their food three times daily, while 98 children received a placebo. After 12 weeks, the parents of children in the active treatment group reported significant decreases in symptoms of irritability, hyperactivity/noncompliance, and inappropriate speech compared to the placebo group. In the second phase, all children received the active medication for 24 weeks, and significant decreases in all targeted behaviors, as well as lethargy/social withdrawal, were reported. No serious adverse events were associated with the treatment.
Dr. Pearson concluded that the study demonstrated the potential of pancreatic enzymatic replacement therapy to improve behavioral function in preschoolers with ASD, with minimal side effects. By enhancing the supply of essential amino acids necessary for neurotransmitter synthesis, this intervention could effectively address maladaptive behaviors in these children. Further research is needed to explore the long-term effects of this treatment and its potential applicability to a larger population.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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