BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Autism spectrum disorders are conditions which affect large numbers of children both in the United States and all around the world. Experts highlighted the importance of detecting autism as early as possible, but the current techniques are quite difficult and not entirely effective. Now, a new research found a biological method which can tell if children might develop autism.
In the United States, one in 68 children was diagnosed with autism in 2014. Over the past decade, the number of children diagnosed with ASD has increased by 30 percent. CDC officials warn that an early detection of the disorder is extremely important. However, the majority of diagnosis methods rely on behavioral factors and are not always accurate.
Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York tried to find a better technique for diagnosis. Thus, they developed a biological method which helps them predict if a child might develop autism. The method is based on looking at substances in the child’s blood which might be indicative of the disorder.
A biological method to predict autism
The study was led by Juergen Hahn and Daniel Howsmon and it can be found in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. They analyzed blood samples from 83 children with autism and 76 children who were not affected by the disease. The children were between 3 and 10 years old.
Scientists measured the quantities of metabolite during certain processes, namely the folate-dependent one-carbon metabolism and transsulfuration pathways. They measured these substances since both of them were found altered in people with a higher risk of developing ASD. Also, they developed some statistical models which looked at the neurological status of children and could tell who had autism.
The most accurate method of diagnosis
The authors noticed that their biological model was more accurate in predicting autism than any other existing tool. They were able to identify correctly 97.6 percent of the children with ASD, and 96.1 percent of the children with a normal neurological development.
Juergen Hahn dubbed their diagnosis tool as the most accurate in the field.
“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. 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.”
However, the scientists need more research until they can consider their method 100 percent accurate. Further research might help them find methods to develop treatment for ASD symptoms.
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