Experimental Blood Test Will Attempt to Detect Autism

A new blood test is being examined to see whether it can detect genetic markers that can identify autism spectrum disorders (ASD). If successful, the test would greatly improve doctors’ ability to diagnose the disorders–and begin interventions–earlier. More from CNN.com:

“In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston describe a new experimental test to detect the developmental disorder, based on the differences in gene expression between kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those without the condition.

The blood-based test appears to predict autism relatively accurately, at least among boys, and has already been licensed to a company, SynapDx, for commercial development. In an e-mail statement to TIME, a spokeswoman for SynapDx said the company plans to start clinical trials of the new test in early 2013.

The new blood test for autism is intriguing, researchers say, because it seems to be at least as effective as any other genetic test for autism that doctors currently use. Scientists believe that autism has some genetic basis, based on genes that have been associated with the disorder, and the fact that the condition seems to run in families.

“A week does not go by where you don’t hear about a genetic mutation that has been linked to autism in at least a few families,” says Isaac Kohane, a pediatric endocrinologist and computer scientist at Children’s Hospital Boston, and the senior study author on the new article in PLOS ONE. Kohane is a scientific adviser for SynapDx, but says he does not own any stock in the company.

But autism is a complex condition, he says, with many possible genetic determinants. And the precise genetic mechanism, or more likely mechanisms, are still poorly understood.”

Image: Blood test tubes, via Shutterstock

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