Promising discoveries from recent research
Metabolic signatures in the blood of some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can potentially lead to earlier diagnosis and perhaps targeted therapy, new research suggests.
Investigators found that dysregulation of amino acid metabolism can be used to detect about 17 percent of children with ASD.
With no currently reliable diagnostic biomarkers for ASD, researchers are forced to turn to prior evidence suggesting that dysregulation of branched-chain amino acids may contribute to ASD. This time around, the researchers tested whether dysregulation of amino acids was a pervasive phenomenon in individuals with ASD.
“Our paper indicates that that seems to be the case,” said senior author David G. Amaral, PhD, director of research at the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute in Sacramento.
Researchers compared plasma metabolites from over 500 children with ASD with those of 164 age-appropriate children with typical patterns of development. The results allowed the researchers to divide the children with ASD into appropriate subpopulation based upon shared metabolic signatures.
While Dr. Amaral acknowledges the unlikelihood of a single biomarker to detect all cases of autism, he says a realistic goal is the establishment of a collection of diagnostic panels to identify a large sample of children at risk.
The study was published online September 6 in Biological Psychiatry.