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UTHSC selected to participate in nation's largest autism study

Health Science Center one of 10 sites testing the drug Secretin

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) is launching the largest and most rigorous trial for an autism treatment to date. Autism is a neuroimmune-developmental disorder affecting an estimated 1 in 300 Texas children. Autistic children often have severe difficulties communicating and socially interacting with others.

The UTHSC trial will test the effectiveness of the drug Secretin, a pancreatic hormone that assists in digestion. "A high percentage of autistic children have gastrointestinal problems. They lack specific enzymes responsible for breaking down certain foods, particularly milk and wheat products," said Raymond Palmer, Ph.D., a nationally renowned autism expert and assistant professor of family and community medicine at the Health Science Center. "Combined with behavioral interventions, the drug Secretin may help in the overall process of recovery. In some cases, you may see children begin to use language and become social again."

While there are standardized tests for determining that a child has autism, there is no known cause or cure. "The best we can do right now is catch it early and begin immediate treatment involving the latest medical knowledge and behavioral therapies available," Dr. Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer is working in conjunction with the Texas Center for Autism Research and Treatment in San Antonio. Nine other sites are involved in the trial, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and UCLA.

Anyone interested in participating in this study may contact Theresa Madore, study coordinator, at (210) 590-3381, toll free at 1-888-338-2278, or by e-mail at

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas