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Blood test may confirm autism in infants as young as one year old

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 8th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Leading researchers in autism have announced that a simple blood test, conducted on infants as young as a year old may soon be able to detect autism. This test is being heralded as a breakthrough as it could lead to sooner, more effective treatment. The test could be available as soon as two years.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The announcement was made at the Asia-Pacific Autism Conference in Adelaide by Professor Eric Courchesne. Who declared that he had made a breakthrough in the detection of the genetic "signature" of autism.

"This is going to lead to much better treatments at a much earlier stage and a large percentage of children having an excellent outcome," Professor Courchesne said.

The breakthrough comes after six years of research by Courchesne, one of the world's leading experts on the neurobiology of autism. He was capably assisted by research partner Dr Tiziano Pramparo.

Courchesne's team at the Autism Centre of Excellence at the University of San Diego first scanned the brains and analyzed the blood of more than 600 youngsters from 12 months to four years old. Courchesne's team was the first to identify several gene networks that are a common thread in the development of autism.

"People have been looking at individual genes. What we've found is that it's how these genes combine in networks and how these networks disrupt brain growth that is a common pathway in autism," Courchesne says.

Courchesne says that during the second trimester of pregnancy, these gene networks disrupt the production of cells in gestating babies' brains. Too many or too few are produced, causing problems with the way that the cells are organized or connected.

"We've also identified four gene networks that are a 'biological signature' of autism in babies as young as 12 months,' he was quoted as saying by the AAP.

"A blood screening test is being developed.

"At this stage it's looking very promising that the blood screening test will have high accuracy, specificity and sensitivity for children at risk of autism," Courchesne says.

In related news, separate research at Cambridge University discovered a link between autism and anorexia. Cambridge researchers found that teenage girls with anorexia have an above average number of autistic traits.

Some anorexia sufferers may in fact be undiagnosed autism sufferers whose condition manifests as an obsessions with food, calories and weight. Understanding the link between the two conditions could lead to new ways of treating anorexia, which usually develops in adolescence.

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