March 29, 2017

A blood test could be the key for earlier detection of Autism

19 March 2017, 10:38 | Winifred Adams

New biomarker method may accurately identify autism in children

Breakthrough? The new method designed by New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the first to analyze metabolic biomarkers that come before behavioral changes

Prof Hahn said: "The method presented in this work is the only one of its kind that can classify an individual as being on the autism spectrum or as being neurotypical".

Researchers at New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claim 96% of children on the autism spectrum would be picked up through the test.

According to RPI News, the researchers were investigating patterns of various metabolites and found out that there are significant differences between the metabolites of children with ASD and to those who are neurotypical. While prior research often focused on single metabolites or biomarkers, this new process measures 24 separate metabolites from a blood sample and, through a complex algorithm, can allegedly determine whether an individual is on the autism spectrum.

Autism spectrum disorder is thought to affect around 1.5 percent of children, but diagnosis continues to prove hard and now relies on a multidisciplinary team of doctors. People with ASD "may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people". But the underlying cause of ASD is still up for debate after it was shown that childhood vaccines are not responsible.

This novel diagnostic tool is the first physiological test that can detect the genetic disorder, its accuracy greatly surpassing now used screening measures, which only focus on behavioral symptoms.

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Children are now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by a trained clinical psychologist through observing behaviours.

In the United States, one in 68 children was diagnosed with autism in 2014. Most children are not diagnosed with ASD until after age 4 years.

"Our contribution is using big data techniques that are able to look at a suite of metabolites that have been correlated with ASD and make statistically a much stronger case", explains lead author of the study, Juergen Hahn.

New research proposes a biological tool that accurately predicts ASD in children.

The number of ASD diagnoses has drastically increased over the past few decades, and in the USA, the estimates show a 30 percent increase in the number of children with ASD compared with previous years. Furthermore, work published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology with the research group of Arkansas Children's Hospital researcher Jill James found differences in the parameter distribution functions of reaction rates in the methionine cycle and the transulfuration pathway.

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