One thing I’ve learned from my short tenure in science is that often, when you get a result that is really surprising and difficult to explain, it ends up being wrong or explained by something really mundane and boring. Therefore, my BS sensors have been tingling around a new paper that’s been getting a lot of press this week titled, “Autism Symptoms Improve After Fecal Transplant: Small Study.”
I love this title, because it suggests to me that the authors knew that it was going to blow up in press and were trying to apologize for it right away. “See scientists,” it seems to say, “we recognize that this is a small study and that the results are likely not replicable. It’s not our fault if it becomes super famous.”
I haven’t read this study (it’s not quite published yet), so my criticism is super unfair. But seriously…
The study found that doing fecal transplants in children with autism (and gastrointestinal disease) improved behavioral symptoms associated with autism (and gastrointestinal disease).
Here are some thoughts for ya’ll to mull over:
Are the parents who are reporting the behavioral symptoms immune to placebo effects? (No, it was not a blind study, so the children and their parents knew they were being treated).
Is it not possible that some of those behavioral problems, such as irritability and communication problems, were partially caused by the gastrointestinal distress? Or is that just me?
Wouldn’t you reduce your behavioral problems if someone just made you drink someone else’s poo?
Living in the Future
Hold on to your butts, everyone…I’m about to use the words, “targeted, nanonparticles, biodegradeable, brain, and FDA-approved” all in the same paragraph. Science orgasm (which is to say, an orgasm).
Some geniuses built a brilliant new drug delivery system, and published in the hilariously named and prestigious “Nano Letters.” It works like this: you put a drug in a biodegradable, nanoparticle. Some news sources have been describing these nanoparticles as “tiny,” but I know you all are smarter with larger imaginations, so I’ll emphasize that these nanoparticles are super tiny.
Then you put the nanoparticles in a body (a rat body, in this case). Then you use targeted ultrasound on an area that you want to treat, which is completely non-invasive. The ultrasound makes a liquid in the nanoparticles transform to gas and release the drug. That’s awesome because right now if you give someone a drug it usually goes everywhere, which is less good than if it only goes to place you want it!
BONUS: All the individual pieces of this are already FDA-approved, which means we might get to see it in clinical practice soon.
I’m personally excited about this as a new experimental paradigm to manipulate specific brain areas.