A team of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas will be using the proprietary protein supplement marketed by Immunotec Research of Quebec and manufactured by Glanbia Nutritionals.
Studies have shown levels of the antioxidant glutathione are typically about 50 percent lower in children with autism.
"We know that Immunocal has been used to raise glutathione in other studies very effectively in areas such as cancer and lung disease," said co-investigator Dr. Jill James. "We want to take advantage of this same technology".
Autism is a neurological developmental disorder that affects children's ability to socialize normally, impairs language skills, restricts their interests and curiosity and causes other behavioral abnormalities. One in every 175 American children is identified as having autism, but this rate is rising. Medical treatment of the disorder has been minimally effective.
According to Immunotec, bonded cysteines found in Immunocal are building blocks for glutathione. Glutathione, a naturally-occurring protein in our bodies, is responsible for a number of functions including removing or neutralizing dangerous substances we are exposed to on a daily basis.
Toxins, pollution, disease, stress, and poor diet can all contribute to loss of glutathione, said Immunotec.
"Some children with autism are poor detoxifiers relative to normally developing children, and in particular, have trouble excreting toxic metals," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Janet Kern. "…We want to clearly establish that raising glutathione levels in these children will improve their ability to detoxify these substances and in that way improve some of their symptoms."
The research is taking the form of a pilot study to begin with and will involved between ten and 20 young children suffering autism for a period of a few months, Immunotec Research's vice president for research and development John Molson told NutraIngredients-USA.
"It has yet really to be defined," said Molson of the link between glutathione supplementation and autism. "But based on what we've seen anecdotally, the results are favourable."