A small clinical study performed by researchers in Sweden has given hope that oxytocin nasal spray may have benefits for sufferers of mental illness, and in particular patients who have difficulty understanding and reacting appropriately to social signals, including patients with autism.
Now, Scandinavian scientists have produced new data from a small clinical trial showing that low doses of oxytocin delivered as a nasal spray might benefit patients with mental and cognitive problems.
Researchers from the University of Oslo in Norway teamed up with Yardley, Pa.-based OptiNose to test the company’s investigational device designed to improve medicine delivery to the brain via the nose. The advantage of nasal drug delivery is that the effects can be felt more immediately than medication in an oral form. Nasal delivery is also used as a noninvasive alternative for some drugs that were traditionally administered intravenously. OptiNose claims that its technology delivers oxytocin to the upper part of the nose, which is thought to be a better target to get drugs to the brain.
The trial enrolled 16 healthy adult volunteers and evaluated two different doses of oxytocin and their effect on how social signals are perceived. Each of the men underwent four, single-dose treatments: a placebo, a low dose of oxytocin, a high dose of oxytocin and an intravenous dose of oxytocin. The intravenous dose was used to compare the effects of oxytocin in circulating blood. After each dose, participants were then presented with 20 male and 20 female faces displaying angry, happy and emotionally ambiguous expressions and were asked to identify how angry or happy the people seemed.