Does sulforaphane treat autism?

A 2021 human study investigated sulforaphane treatments of autistic 3-to-12-year-olds:

“Sulforaphane (SF) led to non-statistically significant changes in the total and all subscale scores of the primary outcome measure. Several effects of SF on biomarkers correlated to clinical improvements. SF was very well tolerated and safe and effective based on our secondary clinical measures.

13229_2021_447_Fig1

Clinical response to SF was associated with changes in mitochondrial function, and large intrasubject variability in this study was linked to underlying biological responses. The increase in ATP [adenosine triphosphate]-Linked Respiration associated with improvement in ABC [Aberrant Behavior Checklist] scores suggests that those individuals who showed improvements in behavior also had improved mitochondrial capacity to produce ATP.

Individuals who showed an improvement in ABC scores also showed a decrease in Proton Leak Respiration, suggesting that their mitochondria were better able to regulate oxidative stress. It is also possible that the increase in ATP production was related to improvement in the ability of mitochondria to handle oxidative stress.

SF had significant positive effects on oxidative stress, cytoprotective markers and cytokines, as well as mitochondrial function. These were promising findings that require further investigation of both clinical effects and mechanisms of action of SF.”

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-021-00447-5 “Randomized controlled trial of sulforaphane and metabolite discovery in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”


Differences between this clinical trial and its pilot study curated in Autism biomarkers and sulforaphane included:

“HO-1 [heme oxygenase 1] functions to couple activation of mitochondrial biogenesis to anti-inflammatory cytokine expression. It was initially increased in the pilot study, then paradoxically decreased in the main study, on continued treatment for longer periods with SF.

Increased HO-1 is consistent with decreases in proinflammatory cytokines we observed initially in IL-6, IL-1β and TNF-α. Decreased levels of cytokines continued after HO-1 returned to baseline with longer duration of treatment and suggest a decreased inflammatory state.

These cytokines are usually elevated in children with ASD, but were decreased on treatment with SF: IL-6 and TNF-α at 15 (but not 30) weeks.”

This study made a good effort with autistic children. Its insignificant effects of sulforaphane treatments pointed toward an understanding that human experiences when we are fetuses can override many subsequent events, treatments, and life experiences.

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