Experts are developing new methods for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders
Autism often occurs before the age of three. The early detection of the disease is usually extremely difficult. Researchers have now found that a new diagnostic tool could allow doctors to diagnose autism in children with a simple blood test.
Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York found that a simple blood test could be enough to determine whether children have an autism spectrum disorder. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "PLOS Computational Biology".
Can a blood test detect autism?
Can the secret behind autism be reduced to a few simple biomarkers or is the disorder far too complex? Experts claim that with the help of a novel diagnostic tool, autism spectrum disorders in children could be easily identified by a simple blood test.
The root causes of ASA are still a mystery
The clarity in diagnosing children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASA) has been a major challenge for modern medicine, the authors say. The root causes of ASA remain a mystery, but early diagnosis could lead to more effective treatment and management of the condition, the researchers report.
ASS is incredibly complex
The search for a reliable way to diagnose ASA has so far proven to be a delicate task for researchers. In general, the diagnosis is based on a doctor's assessment of a child's behavior patterns and social skills, the researchers say. However, many children are not recognized as autistic until they are four years old or older. The disorder turns out to be incredibly complex, with a variety of different manifestations and probable causes, the scientists add.
Other research on the subject
Current investigations have started to enable early diagnosis using certain biological markers. Other studies are trying to develop a more accurate physiological medical test for the condition. In 2015, for example, scientists identified certain proteins that can be found in saliva. These proteins are often found in elevated concentrations in people with autism. The discovery raised hope for a quick and easy saliva test to diagnose the disorder, the authors explain.
New technology is the most comprehensive diagnostic method for ASA to date
There is also further research on this topic. Last year, another group of researchers tried to develop a so-called eye tracking technique to enable early diagnosis of ASA. The researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute claimed through their scientific work that they had developed the most comprehensive physiological diagnosis process for ASA to date.
Newly developed method measures 24 separate metabolites from a single blood sample
While previous research has often focused on individual metabolites or biomarkers, the new method measures 24 separate metabolites from a blood sample, the experts explain. A complex algorithm can determine whether an individual is within the autism spectrum. The newly developed method uses new data processing techniques that are able to look at a number of metabolites that correlate with ASA, explains the author Professor Jürgen Hahn.
Diagnosis recognizes an existing ASA in almost 98 percent of the test persons
The first results are impressive, say the researchers. The sample group consisted of 83 participants with ASA and 76 age-adjusted subjects. The new technique correctly identified 96.1 percent of the control group and 97.6 percent of the subjects with diagnosed ASA. We are very optimistic that the results can also be replicated in other cohorts, says Professor Hahn. This is the first form of physiological diagnostics and the method is very precise and specific.
More research is needed
Even if the test results are very impressive at first glance, it should be noted that specific metabolites are in no way definitely associated with ASA, the authors say. Many other behavioral disorders could be related to similar biomarkers. This would mean that a blood test might misdiagnose general learning disabilities or even epilepsy, the doctors explain. The researchers conclude that it will probably be some time before an infallible physiological diagnostic tool is available for this mysterious disorder. (as)