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Autism Research - Ana Castejon

Florida Trend: How long have you been looking at the connection between glutathione and autism?

Associate professor,
College of Pharmacy

Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale

Studying whether raising glutathione levels with a nutritional supplement may have an impact on autistic behaviors.

Research dollars earned at Nova

Ana Castejon: I started back in 2011. I got fascinated by idea of the possibility of this major antioxidant having some kind of role within the neuro-degenerative disorder.

FT: Why did you think it might have a role?

AC: There were some publications at that time that were pointing to glutathione being low in some kids that have autism. I noticed that although there were some publications that were pointing at glutathione probably playing a role in autism, there was basically nothing about what kind of interventions we can do to address it and also if there is any type of relationship between the particular deficiency and level of autism — the degree and severity and type of symptoms kids will have. I decided to put together a proposal and try to investigate what we can do to prevent this deficiency.

FT: What are you trying to prove, that glutathione cures autism?

AC: I wouldn’t look into curing. It could probably benefit in terms of some behaviors. That is what we are trying to see. We have a very comprehensive set of testing before and after so we can compare and see if it changes in behavior. We really want to see if there is a correlation between glutathione and improvement of behavior.

FT: How are you administering glutathione?

AC: I found this interesting nutritional supplement manufactured in Canada and has been used in other conditions. It is one of the few, if not the only one, that can raise glutathione levels. The commercial name is Immunocal. It is really a whey protein product. If you want to give body the ability to produce more glutathione, this is a natural and effective way to do that.

FT: How big was the research grant paying for this study?

AC: It’s over $100,000. It’s different from the typical model in pharmaceutical industry. It’s a joint venture. We are splitting 50/50 between NSU and the manufacturer of Immunocal. This is a new trend in which we investigators want to do research with those products, however we still need their support. It’s always a joint venture because we put effort and time and they support us with providing funds and providing the product.

FT: Have you reached any conclusions yet?

AC: No, we can’t reach any conclusions yet. It’s a double-blind placebo study. We are executing the protocol. We don’t know the results until the end of the study. When it is double-blind, we don’t know what we are getting and neither do the patients.

FT: When will you know?

AC: It finishes when you finish recruiting. We need 40 patients. Twenty will receive the placebo and 20 receive the actual product.