Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State University Medical Center/WUSA) - Rose Barker is 4-years old and suffers from autism. A few short months ago she wasn't able to complete a standard lesson plan like other kids her age. But now her reading is nothing short of remarkable.
"This is a child who would have a blank stare and run from people if she didn't know them. I would have to literally carry her up the stairs with me if I just went from one level to another, "her mother Angela Barker shares.
Rose is now learning, smiling and interacting like never before. Researchers at Ohio State University Medical Center think a packet of cholesterol could be making the difference. Rose is currently participating in a clinical trial. Her parent's add a packet of cholesterol to Rose's diet twice a day and that simple act seems to have had a profound effect.
Eugene Arnold, MD a child psychiatrist at Ohio State's Nisonger Center says, "There is a great tendency for children with autism to have cholesterol below the normal range, than for the general population. In fact, it appears to be twice as much from our preliminary look, at what we've screened so far. "
Dr. Arnold launched a study with the simple premise knowing that proper levels of cholesterol are essential for brain development and function; he wanted to see if increasing cholesterol could reduce symptoms of autism. In Rose's case, at least, the results were clear.
"Personally, for us, the cholesterol has changed our life. It was exactly what she needed. Her development started almost immediately. She smiles again, she runs, she has awesome motor skills," says Rose's mom.
Dr. Arnold says parents shouldn't run out and start adding cholesterol to their kids diets because too high of cholesterol could do more harmful. High cholesterol in children leads to plaque build up on the walls of the arteries and other heart problems.
"The nice thing is, that we can do a test, a blood test, to find out if a youngster is likely to respond to this particular treatment, "says Dr. Arnold.
The second round of the cholesterol clinical trial is being announced, appropriately, during April, Autism Awareness Month. It involves doctors at the National Institutes of Health and at Johns Hopkins. They will be looking to enroll children between the ages of 4 and 12.