Blood test for babies could detect autism

Pamela Mardle
Thursday, August 8, 2013

A simple blood test to diagnose autism in 12-month-old babies could be available within the next two years after researchers discovered the genetic 'signature' for the disorder.

Professor Eric Courchesne, director of the Autism Centre of Excellence at the University of California, revealed the breakthrough at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Adelaide, Australia.

He said that the blood-screening test was looking ‘very promising’ and will have ‘high accuracy, specificity and sensitivity for children at risk of autism’.

Professor Courchesne and his research partner Dr Tiziano Pramparo also identified several gene networks common to autism that they believe combine to disrupt brain growth, as opposed to the widespread idea that the disorder is caused by individual genes.

‘During the fourth, fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, [these gene networks] disrupt the production of brain cells, producing too many or in some cases too few, and how the cells are organised and connected,’ said Professor Courchesne.

The two researchers scanned the brains and analysed the blood of more than 600 babies and toddlers aged 12 months to four years over a period of six years to draw their conclusions.

Professor Courchesne said, ‘This discovery really changes the landscape of our understanding of causes and effective treatments.

‘It is going to lead to much better treatments at a much earlier stage and a large percentage of children having an excellent outcome.’


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