The drug Suramin was first developed in 1916 by two German scientists as a means of treating African sleeping sickness, which is a potentially fatal disease that is characterized by humans generally feeling tired and sleeping during the daytime, while remaining awake at night. The drug is still produced and sold by pharmaceutical giant Bayer under the name Germanin; however, it hadn’t been used or tested for any additional illnesses or diseases until very recently.
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego’s School of Medicine, it was determined that Suramin, which is also known as an antipurinergic therapy mediator, was successful in reversing and restoring autism symptoms in the brains of mice.According to the UC San Diego Health System:
“Our (cell danger) theory suggests that autism happens because cells get stuck in a defensive metabolic mode and fail to talk to each other normally, which can interfere with brain development and function,” said Robert Naviaux, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and co-director of the Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Center at UC San Diego. “We used a class of drugs that has been around for almost a century to treat other diseases to block the ‘danger’ signal in a mouse model, allowing cells to return to normal metabolism and restore cell communication.”
“Of course, correcting abnormalities in a mouse is a long way from a cure for humans,” said Naviaux, “but we are encouraged enough to test this approach in a small clinical trial of children with autism spectrum disorder in the coming year. This trial is still in the early stages of development. We think this approach – called antipurinergic therapy or APT – offers a fresh and exciting new path that could lead to development of a new class of drugs to treat autism.”
In all, Suramin restored 17 abnormalities in the mice brains, as the drug helped fix the cell-to-cell signaling, motor coordination and social behavior, among others.