Scientific Trials Of So-Called 'Wonder' Hormone Treatment For Autism Will Be Conducted In Seattle, Denver

Secretin, a hormone that some parents claim possesses almost magical properties as a treatment for autism, will be scientifically tested in large- scale trials starting later this month in Seattle and Denver.

Concurrent trials, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), will be conducted at the University of Washington's Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD) and at the University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center. Fifty-one children between ages 3 and 12 and diagnosed with autism will be tested at each site.

Secretin is a naturally occurring human hormone produced in the small intestine that helps control digestion and is used in diagnosing gastrointestinal problems. Over the past six months secretin has been the focus of national media attention with some parents of autistic children saying hormone injections have resulted in improvements in their eye contact, alertness and use of language.

Autism is a severe developmental disorder that interferes with a child's ability to communicate or relate socially with other people. Afflicted individuals also have a restricted range of activities and interests. Autism is far more common than once believed, and as many as 550,000 Americans are estimated to have the disorder. Approximately 75 percent of children with autism also have some form of mental retardation.

The secretin trials project will be headed by Dr. Alan Unis, a UW associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and director of the developmental neuropsychiatry clinic at the CHDD, and Geraldine Dawson, a University of Washington psychology professor who also is directing a $7.3 million nationwide study to uncover the genetic and neurobiological causes of autism. In Denver, the trials team will be directed by Dr. Ed Goldson, professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and Sally Rogers, professor of psychiat

Contact: Joel Schwarz
University of Washington

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