Scientists from the UK and Italy recently conducted a study that devised a way to determine the presence of autism via a blood test.
The study recruited 38 children (29 male and nine female) with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 31 children without ASD. Researchers looked at the children’s blood protein levels, urine and more.
Currently, there are no clinical chemistry tests for ASD. Naila Rabbani, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Warwick, said in a press release that the study could help diagnose and provide ASD interventions at earlier stages.
“We hope the tests will also reveal new causative factors. With further testing we may reveal specific plasma and urinary profiles or ‘fingerprints’ of compounds with damaging modifications,” she said. “This may help us improve the diagnosis of ASD and point the way to new causes of ASD.”
The researchers were able to identify an association between ASD and blood protein damage via oxidation and glycation, processes in which oxygen and sugar molecules play a role in modifying proteins. The study said that the best test for the link was to look at markers for dityrosine (DT) and advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).
Those with ASD were found to have higher levels of both DT and AGEs in their blood. The study also confirmed the idea that amino acid transporter mutations are a sign of ASD.
Chemical differences between the two groups of children were present, and the researchers teamed up with Kashif Rajpoot, of the University of Birmingham’s department of computer science, to determine the differences between the children with ASD and those without ASD. The group used artificial intelligence algorithms to create a mathematical equation to create a diagnostic test “better than any method available,” according to the researchers.
“For future studies, we suggest firstly validation of the current findings in an independent clinical study group,” the study authors wrote. “Thereafter, priorities are investigation of the biomarkers in children younger than 5 years old to assess their ability to improve diagnosis at earlier stages of ASD development.”
The researchers said the study should be repeated with more children in order to confirm the diagnostic test and to determine whether it can identify ASD at early stages as well as determine whether treatments for ASD are working for the children.
Tori Linville is a freelance writer and editor from Clarksville, Tennessee. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she’s faithfully watching her alma mater, the University of Alabama, dominate the football field.