Measuring a Set of Blood Proteins May Enable Earlier Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

June 30, 2017

DALLAS, Tex -- June 30, 2017 -- Measuring a set of proteins in the blood may enable earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The research found that the levels of 2 proteins previously identified as potential markers for ASD could help scientists accurately diagnose the disorder in approximately 75% of the children studied.

When the 2 proteins are measured together, the diagnostic accuracy increased to 82%.

The study is among several recent and ongoing efforts to improve early diagnosis of ASD by shifting focus to biological measurements instead of behavioural symptoms.

Progress in this area could lead to earlier intervention and help limit the effects of the disorder, said senior author Dwight German, MD, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas.

“ASD is a very heterogeneous disorder, and if we can identify biomarkers for even a subgroup of ASD patients, then that would be extremely helpful not only for early diagnosis but also for the development of therapeutics,” he said.,

For the study, the researchers analysed serum samples from 60 boys with and without ASD. They were screened for differences in 110 proteins using a multiplex immunoassay.

Eleven proteins were found that together could confirm ASD with modest accuracy using multiple training and test sets. Two of the 11 proteins were further tested using a different detection platform and with a larger sample of boys with and without ASD.

The 2 proteins -- thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) -- have been previously identified as putative biomarkers for ASD.

In boys with ASD, TSH levels were significantly lower than in boys without ASD and IL-8 levels were significantly elevated in boys with ASD.

The diagnostic accuracy for ASD based upon TSH or IL-8 levels alone varied from 74% to 76%, but using both proteins together, the diagnostic accuracy increased to 82%.

Most cases of ASD are not diagnosed until about age 4, when communication and social disabilities become apparent. However, recent research offers hope that detection may be possible by age 1 by measuring brain growth.

SOURCE: UT Southwestern Medical Center

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