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  Immune, protein alterations found in blood samples of children with autism  
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Immune, protein alterations found in blood samples of children with autism

Scientists from the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute have found components of the immune system and proteins and metabolites in the blood of children with autism to be substantially different from those found in typically developing children.

Investigators at the institute believe the discovery, announced at the fourth annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in Boston, 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.

"Finding a sensitive and accurate biological marker for autism that can be revealed by a simple blood test would have enormous implications for diagnosing, treating and understanding more about the underlying causes of autism," said David G. Amaral, research director at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and one of the co-authors of the paper presented at IMFAR.

Amaral, along with pediatric neuropsychologist Blythe Corbett and other M.I.N.D. Institute colleagues, took blood samples from 70 children with autism who were between 4 and 6 years old and from 35 children of the same age without the disorder.

Initial 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

  • Other small molecules (metabolites) also show many differences

 
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