RPI scientists develop blood test for autism

Posted March 19, 2017

Autism Speaks states that "autism spectrum disorder" consists of varying conditions involving behavioural problems, issues with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior.

- Researchers think they have found a combination of proteins that could be predictive of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) when present in a child's blood.

Worldwide, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is estimated to affect 1.5 percent of all children, and 1 in 68 US children were diagnosed with ASD in 2014.

This new diagnostic method was shown to be "highly accurate and specific", and helped researchers identify 97.6 percent of children who had autism and 96.1 percent of those who were neurotypical. But researchers have struggled to translate these into new diagnostic tools.

NewsHub reported that this one of its kind methods can classify if an individual is on the autism spectrum or being neurotypical.

Hahn's research, titled "Classification and Adaptive Behavior Prediction of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder based upon Multivariate Data Analysis of Markers of Oxidative Stress and DNA Methylation", appears today in PLOS Computational Biology, an open access journal published by the Public Library of Science. "We are not aware of any other method, using any type of biomarker that can do this, much less with the degree of accuracy that we see in our work", study authors said in a statement.

These are produced by chemical reactions known as FOCM (folate-dependent one-carbon metabolism) and TS (transulfuration).

The study involved blood samples collected from 83 children with autism and 76 neurotypical children ages 3 to 10 at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Hahn's interdisciplinary research at Rensselaer combines systems engineering, applied mathematics, and computer science to develop new ways of analyzing nonlinear systems found in biological or chemical processes.

However, Hahn also concedes that more research is needed to confirm the results. Obese women are almost 50 per cent more likely to have a child with autism compared with normal weight mothers. People with ASD "may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people".

Prof Hahn said: "The number of diagnosed cases of autsim spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased dramatically over the last four decades". But the underlying cause of ASD is still up for debate after it was shown that childhood vaccines are not responsible.

He added: "We emphasise these models are cross validated helping to ensure the results will generalise to new samples".