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Autism Symptoms Reduced in Israeli Study on Nitrous Oxide

In a study published Monday, Israeli researchers at Hebrew University have found a direct link between autism symptoms and the levels of nitric oxide in the brains of mice—a link that could potentially help the millions of adults and children with autism worldwide.

The findings of the study conducted by Dr. Haitham Amal and his team were published in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Science. The study was done on mice in a laboratory and found that increased levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the brain resulted in an increase in autistic symptoms. Conversely, as NO levels are decreased in a “proactive and controlled manner” the symptoms were alleviated.

“This research is a significant breakthrough in autism research, with the first direct connection made between an increase in the concentration of NO in the brain and autistic behavior,” Amal said.

“I am hopeful that with our new understanding of the NO mechanism, we can begin to develop therapeutic drugs and help millions of children and adults living with autism around the world,” he added.

“Our research showed – in an extraordinary way – that inhibiting the production of NO, specifically in brain neuron cells in mouse models of autism, causes a decrease in autism-like symptoms,” Dr. Amal said.

“By inhibiting the production of NO on laboratory animals, they became more ‘social’, and less repetitiveness was observed in their behavior. Additionally, the animals showed interest in new objects and were less anxious. Finally, the decrease in NO levels led to a significant improvement in neuronal indices.”

According to a statement from Hebrew University, at least 30,000 children and teens have been diagnosed with autism in Israel. In the US, autism is the most common developmental disorder diagnosed, with 1 in 44 people under 21 living with some form of autism.

Amal also speculated that better understanding the impact of the levels of NO in the brain could also be a key to treating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or psychiatric issues like bipolar or schizophrenia.

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