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Autism blood Dx might focus on fat metabolism marker

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A team of Canadian and U.S. researchers believe they've come up with a possible blood test option for autism, something that could help spot a unique pattern of fat metabolism blood markers found in a sizeable minority of children with the disorder.

Scientists at Western University in Ontario and the University of Arkansas came up with the new finding, and their work can be found online in journal Translational Psychiatry.

The gist of their work, however, revolves around previous research suggesting that autism spectrum disorders don't just generate biological abnormalities in the brain. The idea is that that some autistic patients may also face impaired mitochondria functioning, which could lead to broader abnormalities in areas including the immune system, energy generation and digestion.

With that in mind, they looked at 213 children with autism spectrum disorders. About 17% of them had a consistent, unique pattern of acyl-carnitines (fat metabolism blood markers), potentially driven by changes in mitochondrial function and fat metabolism. This, in turn, researchers believe, may come from a process begun with autism spectrum disorder-related gut bacteria (many patients with these disorders face problems with digestion and metabolism).

To be sure, 17% isn't a lot. But scientists believe autism can erupt from a number of causes. And while more research is needed, a blood test focused on spotting the telltale fat metabolism blood marker could at least help that solid minority of patients with autism spectrum disorders found to have the unique pattern of acyl-carnitines, leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

The larger biotechnology industry is beginning to eye development of a viable autism blood diagnostic test, plus greater identification of more autism biomarkers. Startup SynapDx, for example, recently raised $6 million in new venture funding to proceed with a 600-patient clinical study to evaluate the measurement of RNA expression differences in order to correctly diagnose children at risk for autism spectrum disorders.

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract

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