Current enlightenment about etiology and pharmacological treatment of autism spectrum disorder
Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental brain disorder characterized by two core behavioral symptoms, namely impairments in social communication and restricted/repetitive behavior. The molecular mechanisms underlying ASD are not well understood. Recent genetic as well as non-genetic animal models contributed significantly in understanding the pathophysiology of ASD, as they establish autism-like behavior in mice and rats. Among the genetic causes, several chromosomal mutations including duplications or deletions could be possible causative factors of ASD. In addition, the biochemical basis suggests that several brain neurotransmitters, e.g., dopamine (DA), serotonin (5-HT), gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), acetylcholine (ACh), glutamate (Glu) and histamine (HA) participate in the onset and progression of ASD. Despite of convincible understanding, risperidone and aripiprazole are the only two drugs available clinically for improving behavioral symptoms of ASD following approval by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Till date, up to our knowledge there is no other drug approved for clinical usage specifically for ASD symptoms. However, many novel drug candidates and classes of compounds are underway for ASD at different phases of preclinical and clinical drug development. In this review, the diversity of numerous aetiological factors and the alterations in variety of neurotransmitter generation, release and function linked to ASD are discussed with focus on drugs currently used to manage neuropsychiatric symptoms related to ASD. The review also highlights the clinical development of drugs with emphasis on their pharmacological targets aiming at improving core symptoms in ASD.