Dr. Robert Naviaux and a Possible Cure for Autism

If you haven’t known by now, I love surfing the web to keep up to date with all the ongoing research in my field – it’s part of my job! Today, I wanted to share this exciting bit of news about Dr. Robert Naviaux, who is a researcher at the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine. This guy is someone to watch - not only is he researching chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia - but he is looking into the cellular level of mitochondrial "survival mode" as a reason for autism - and may have found the cure.


Back in 2013, he was able to reverse autism in a mouse model, using a hypothesis that could help explain fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. He believed that autism may be a consequence of abnormal cell communication resulting from abnormal activation of the cell danger response. In other words, cells in autism shut down, stop communicating with other cells and go into hibernation.


He said in a press release:


 “Cells threatened or damaged by microbes, such as viruses or bacteria, or by physical forces or by chemicals, such as pollutants, react defensively, a part of the normal immune response. Their membranes stiffen. Internal metabolic processes are altered – most notably mitochondria, the cells’ critical “power plants” – resulting in activation of the cell danger response and reduced communications between cells.”


In the 2013 mouse experiment, he used a drug called suramin that’s about a century old, known to battle sleeping sickness. He believes that the drug can stop the “cell danger response,” and sure enough, the drug was able to rebuild the mouse’s brain synapses, improve its social behavior and motor coordination, normalize its mitochondrial metabolism and more.


The Phase One clinical trial using suramin for autistic children was completed in April 2016 – the first of its kind. In the trial, suramin was given as a single dose through an intravenous line. Half of the participating children received suramin; half received a placebo (saline infusion). Behavioral and medical tests were conducted before and after treatment, and included some blood and urine analyses.  I have heard through the grapevine that the results were impressive.


Since such a clinical trial using suramin is unprecedented, we all know that there is no guarantee yet for a cure for autism. But it’s a huge step, and if anything, news like this is definitely something for us parents to keep an eye on. It’s exciting to see that researchers like Dr. Naviaux are vigorously conducting research and studies to cure developmental disorders like autism, and I can’t wait to see more progress in this field.


You can read more about the trial here: