Blood biomarkers offer hope for autism diagnosis in children

10 September 2018 (Last Updated September 10th, 2018 11:23)

A panel of blood biomarkers discovered by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) MIND Institute and NeuroPointDX could create a new test to detect autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in certain children.

Blood biomarkers offer hope for autism diagnosis in children
New biomarker panel may help in devising a blood test for autism. Credit: biologycorner.

A panel of blood biomarkers discovered by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) MIND Institute and NeuroPointDX could create a new test to detect autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in certain children.

As part of the Children’s Autism Metabolome Project (CAMP), the team investigated the role of metabolome molecules in genetic and environmental factors associated with autism development.

“The researchers found that a blood biomarkers panel for alterations in amino acid metabolism can diagnose autism in approximately 17% of children.”

Currently, the autism diagnosis market lacks biomarker tests. Patients are usually identified based on their altered behaviours that may not be evident until 2-4 years of age.

In the latest study, the researchers found that a blood biomarkers panel for alterations in amino acid metabolism can diagnose autism in approximately 17% of children.

They hope that the discovery will help in accelerating diagnosis and start intensive behavioural therapy for kids at an earlier age. Early therapy is known to be more effective.

Furthermore, the findings are expected to help in creating additional panels to detect other subsets of ASD kids.

MIND Institute research founding director David Amaral said: “It is unlikely that a single marker will detect all autism. This paper demonstrates that alterations in metabolic profiles can detect sizable subsets of individuals with autism.

“The hope is that we will be able to generate a panel of biomarkers that will detect a large proportion of people at risk.”

During the study, blood metabolites were compared between 516 kids with ASD and 164 children who demonstrated typical development. It was observed that 17% of the ASD children possessed unique concentrations of specific amino acids (metabotypes) in their blood.

Apart from diagnosis, the findings can also potentially help in creating targeted interventions for specific ASD groups.