SEP 25, 2019 3:37 PM PDT

Can Autism be Diagnosed from Blood Tests?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) early on in life through behavioral signs alone has been difficult. This comes as typical markers for the condition are often not reliable in young children. But this may soon change. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found a way to diagnose autism early on via blood tests. 

In their study, they analyzed gene expression within the blood of 302 boys aged one to four, both with and without autism. Combining the data collected from each child’s blood sample with neurons models, they discovered an important gene network used to regulate white blood cells that goes disrupted in cases of autism spectrum disorders (Gazestani: 2019). 

Containing key signaling pathways for fetal brain development, the researchers found that the main cause of autism is therefore likely due to prenatal brain development being affected by a faulty version of this gene network. They also found that the worse the regulation of this network, the more severe the ASD symptoms experienced later on.

According to co-senior author of the study, Eric Courchesne: “Increasingly, evidence indicates that ASD is a progressive disorder that, at prenatal and early postnatal stages, involves a cascade of molecular and cellular changes, such as those resulting from dysregulation of signaling pathways and network (University of California- San Diego: 2019).”

First author of the study, Vahid H. Gazestani, added, “Our evidence suggests that abnormal signals from known ASD risk genes may be channeled through this important gene network, and that, in turn, sends signals that alter fetal and postnatal brain formation and wiring patterns (ibid.)."

As their data is consistent with previous studies demonstrating the diagnostic and prognostic abilities of blood gene expression for ASD, the researchers are optimistic that their findings can aid the development of new diagnostic tools to catch autism early on. In being able to do so, they hope that physicians will be able to expedite ASD treatment for young patients and thus restrict its severity and improve its prognosis (Anderton: 2019). 

Despite their optimism, however, they admit that more extensive studies are needed to confirm their findings before any diagnostic tools may be developed. Furthermore, as no females were included in their study, they recognize that their inclusion in further research is important to gain a fuller understanding of its diagnostics across the population. 

 

Sources

 

Gazestani, Vahid H. et al: Nature Neuroscience

University of California- San Diego: Eureka Alert

Anderton, Kate: News Medical 

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Lactose Tolerance Quickly Moved Through Europe
SEP 07, 2020
Lactose Tolerance Quickly Moved Through Europe
Researchers have found evidence that humans in Europe gained the ability to metabolize the lactose, the sugar in milk, a ...
OCT 04, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
The Intriguing Genome of Mitochondria
OCT 04, 2020
The Intriguing Genome of Mitochondria
Our cells carry special structures called organelles, with each different organelle performing various specialized, crit ...
NOV 02, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Denisovan DNA Recovered From the Tibetan Plateau
NOV 02, 2020
Denisovan DNA Recovered From the Tibetan Plateau
Denisovans were ancient hominins that were discovered only recently, and they had a wider range than previously known.
NOV 08, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Drug-Resistant Microbes Persist in Hospitals After Deep Cleaning
NOV 08, 2020
Drug-Resistant Microbes Persist in Hospitals After Deep Cleaning
Researchers have found that drug-resistant bacteria can hang around even after deep cleaning. They used genome sequencin ...
NOV 10, 2020
Immunology
Genetic Profiling Reveals How Ebola Puts Immune Cells in a Chokehold
NOV 10, 2020
Genetic Profiling Reveals How Ebola Puts Immune Cells in a Chokehold
In the middle of 2020, yet another deadly Ebola outbreak was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - the 11th ...
NOV 22, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Many Kids with Inherited High Cholesterol Don't Get the Treatment They Need
NOV 22, 2020
Many Kids with Inherited High Cholesterol Don't Get the Treatment They Need
Our bodies need cholesterol for certain crucial functions; it's a vital component of cell walls, for example. But there ...
Loading Comments...