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Drugmaker Roche recently announced a partnership with small Massachusetts-based Seaside Therapeutics that has been actively conducting trials on a drug meant to treat both the intellectual disability and behavioral issues associated with Fragile X and Autism.

There’s a race among the world’s top pharmaceutical firms to create (and sell) a drug to treat mental retardation and Autism. Thus far, there have been some promising results from Seaside’s clinical trials. Parents have remarked that their children are more manageable and there are noticeable positive changes in behavior.

This drug, Arbaclofen, helps to restore normal synaptic functioning in the brain. Individuals living with Fragile X and Autism experience irregular synaptic functioning. Tiny structures in the brain called synapses are responsible for permitting neurons to transfer electrical or chemical signals. These signals allow us to perform all our daily functions and perceive the world a certain way. In the brains of individuals living with Fragile X or Autism, these synapses function differently from those of typically developing or developed brains, so the neurons misfire and cause varying amounts of confusion and disruption throughout the body.

Arbaclofen helps by stimulating the release of the neurotransmitter GABA, which plays a chief role in regulating the excitability of neurons, thereby allowing them to transfer signals with better accuracy.

While it’s not new to treat behavioral issues with drugs, there haven’t been many options to treat mental retardation or intellectual disability thus far. For further reading check out this New York Times article or this post by Autism Speaks.

Many parents opt to use medications to modify a child’s behaviors, but we ask: would you try a drug to treat your child’s intellectual disability or do you feel that it’s just a part of who he or she is? Let us know in the comments.