Chinese scientists discover new possibility to treat autism

NANJING, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists have discovered that the absence of a certain protein in Drosophila melanogaster, or vinegar flies, causes intestinal flora unbalancing and makes them show symptoms similar to autism in human.


People view the paintings created by students with autism during an exhibition in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province. (Photos: Xinhua)

Led by Liu Xingyin, a professor with Nanjing Medical University in east China's Jiangsu Province, the research team said the discovery could lead to the new theoretical path of treating autism based on digestion and immune activities.

Liu said the KDM5-deficient vinegar flies kept their distance from one another, were slow to respond and had reduced direct contact with other flies.

"All of these phenomena are similar to the communication disorders of people with autism," Liu said ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on Tuesday.

The study shows that without the function of KDM5, the flies' intestinal mucosal barriers were damaged and their intestinal flora was imbalanced. "Many people with autism also have a serious intestinal illness like diarrhea and irritable-bowel syndrome. It is consistent with our findings," Liu said.

Further research also discovered that using antibiotics or feeding Lactobacillus Plantarum could improve social behaviors and the lifespan of some KDM5-deficient flies.

"Former studies about autism usually focused on genetics," Liu said. "We are looking forward to opening a new road for human autism therapy from the perspective of human digestion and the immune system."

The research results were published in the latest issue of Cell Host & Microbe, a top international journal in the field of microbiology.