October 17th, 2014
Study Finds That Compound in Broccoli Helps Autism Symptoms
The Johns Hopkins / Mass General Hospital study is the first backed by N of One: Autism Research Foundation
A father’s observation of son’s autism during fever leads to formation of non-profit that follows clues and backs study
DALLAS, TX - October 17th, 2014 - Researchers have recently announced results of a multi-year study showing a compound found in broccoli improves symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The compound, sulforaphane, is naturally found in certain vegetables such a broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The research project was led by Dr. Andrew Zimmerman and researchers at Mass General Hospital and Johns Hopkins. The recently formed, Dallas-based autism non-profit, N of One: Autism Research Foundation was a sponsor of the study.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autism now affects 1 in 68 children and 1 in 42 boys. For many years, researchers have known that some children with autism show a temporary improvement in symptoms when they have a fever, but are unsure why this occurs. Dr. Zimmerman suspected this phenomenon may be related to “heat shock proteins” found in the body and searched for compounds known to affect these proteins. “We looked extensively for compounds that might impact these proteins but were also safe. In the end, we found a great compound that occurs naturally in food.” said Dr. Zimmerman.
In the study, young men aged 13-27 with autism, most of whom had previously demonstrated improvement with fever, were given sulforaphane or a placebo for 18 weeks. Those who received the sulforaphane had significant improvements in social interactions, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication -- common problems for those with autism. “The study was relatively small with 40 participants and needs to be replicated with more subjects.” said Dr. Zimmerman.
This was the first study sponsored by the autism non-profit, N of One: Autism Research Foundation. N of One was started by former medical venture capitalist, John Rodakis, after his own son was diagnosed with autism, to pursue breakthroughs in autism research by building on the observations of parents and doctors. “After seeing our son’s autism improve during a fever, we contacted Dr. Zimmerman, who first documented the “fever effect”, to ask if we could help support his work. His theory on heat shock proteins was intriguing and the fact that sulforaphane was a natural product appealed to me as a parent.” said Mr. Rodakis.
N of One supports research that treats these types of observations as clues - even if they are unconventional. “We think the unexpected, yet promising results of this study show the power of this approach” added Mr. Rodakis.
“Novel approaches such as the one we took in this study are very hard to get funded. We appreciate N of One taking a chance on this study and others like it.”, said Dr. Zimmerman. N of One has additional studies under development at this time.
About N of One: Autism Research Foundation:
N of One: Autism Research Foundation was founded in 2014, with a mission to facilitate and sponsor breakthrough autism medical research. N of One emphasizes research that treats the observations of parents and doctors as potential clues to how autism works. Founder, John Rodakis, a Harvard MBA with a background in molecular biology, is a parent of an autistic child and started the non-profit after observing dramatic improvements in his son’s autism in response to various factors, such as fever, but was frustrated at the lack of research into these phenomena. Dr. Andrew Zimmerman has subsequently joined N of One's Scientific Advisory Board. For more information about N of One or to read the actual research paper about sulforaphane visit: www.NofOne.org
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Read the research paper published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) : http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/10/08/1416940111.full.pdf+html
For N of One: Autism Research Foundation