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UVA Clinic Enrolling Patients in Autism Study - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic Enrolling Patients in Autism Study

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The Child and Family Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Virginia is now enrolling patients into the largest autism study of its kind. Researchers are using a drug given to Alzheimer's patients to try to improve core symptoms of autism.

The clinical research program is called ConnectMe. It looks at children between the ages of 6 and 12 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Close to 550 patients have been enrolled. It's being offered at more than 85 sites worldwide.

Researchers say the goal of the study is to see if a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug called memantine will improve symptoms of autism -  including impaired interaction and communication.

The FDA recommended the approach after seeing improvements in Alzheimer's patients being treated with the medication.

"It is really important because this is an area of big unmet needs. We don't have anything approved for use and treating the core symptoms.  And so what this medication, what this study is looking at is 'can we improve the social interactions of these kids?' and as we know, these disorders cause a devastating impact on these children and their families," said Dr. Vishal Madaan, UVA Clinic medical director.

Screening for the study is ongoing through April. Results are expected in early 2014.

Researchers say this study is happening at a relevant time because April is Autism Awareness Month.

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