Scientists from the UC Davis M.I.N.D. ( Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders ) Institute presented, at the 4th International Meeting for Autism Research ( IMFAR ) in Boston, new evidence indicating that components of the immune system and proteins and metabolites found in the blood of children with autism differ substantially from those found in typically developing children.
Investigators at the Institute believe the discovery could be a major step toward developing a routine blood test that would allow autism to be detected in newborns and treatment or even prevention to be initiated early in life.
Over the last two decades there has been a dramatic rise in the prevalence of autism, which now affects as many as 1 in every 166 children. But diagnosing autism, a brain disorder that leaves children in apparent isolation from their families and communities, is currently accomplished through a series of behavioral observations that are not reliable until a child is between 2 and 3-years-old.
Researchers took blood samples from 70 children with autism who were between 4 and 6 years old and from 35 children of the same age who didnt have the disorder.
Preliminary findings clearly demonstrate differences in the immune system, as well as proteins and other metabolites in children with autism:
- the antibody producing B cells are increased by 20 percent in the autism group;
- Natural Killer cells are increased by 40 percent;
- more than 100 proteins demonstrated significant differential expression between the autism and typically developing groups.
Source: UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, 2005