The pervasive developmental disorder known as autism, which manifests during the first three years of a child's life, presently strikes at least 11 children out of every 1,000 born in the U.S. And once again it is maligned marijuana that promises hope where none existed previously.

 

New research released Tuesday conducted by the University of California-Irvine and INSERM (France's national research agency) indicates that cannabinoids could be utilized to reverse the effects of autism (cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both marijuana and the human body that activate critical receptors).

 

UC-Irvine researcher Daniele Piomelli, working in conjunction with Olivier Manzoni of INSERM “identified compounds that inhibit enzymes blocking endocannabinoid transmitters called 2-AG in the striatum and cortex regions of the brain,” according to the UC-Irvine press release.

 

The primary goal of this research is to combat “Fragile X syndrome,” the most commonly known single-gene cause of autism, resulting in both mental and physical disabilities. Professor Piomelli and staff increased the number of endocannabinoids in the brains of mice displaying Fragile X syndrome and the mice responded with “dramatic behavioral improvements in maze tests measuring anxiety and open-space acceptance.”

 

While Professor Piomelli was quick to note that these finding do not represent a cure for Fragile X syndrome, he was sufficiently optimistic: “What we hope is to one day increase the ability of people with fragile X syndrome to socialize and engage in normal cognitive functions.” 

 
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