What if you could detect #autism risk at birth?
What if autism could be detected as early as birth, using biomarkers – rather than at age 2-5 years, using behavioral characteristics? That’s what Dr. Naviaux’s new study aims to find out, using data from the newborn screening program. (You may recall Dr. Naviaux’s groundbreaking work on Suramin in autism – see earlier blog post here.)
The newborn screening (NBS) program started over 50 years ago to screen for a disorder called Phenylketonuria (PKU.) PKU can cause irreversible brain damage if it is left untreated. However – if detected early, before symptoms occur in the first few months of life, and treated with a modified diet, brain damage is prevented, even though they still express the abnormal gene. The goal of the newborn screening program is to identify babies with disorders like PKU early, so that treatment can be started right away. These days, millions of babies in the U.S. are routinely screened for various genetic, endocrine, infectious and metabolic disorders, using a few drops of blood from the newborn’s heel.
What if we could do something similar for autism? Could some cases of autism really be prevented by catching the chemical risk signs by a blood test at birth, and treating before the first symptoms occur? Would you change your child’s environment? Monitor medical conditions differently?
Read on to learn more about Dr. Naviaux’s study.
Dr. Naviaux’s Newborn Screening Autism Risk Study
In most cases, autism is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. If autism risk could be identified at birth, we may have a better shot at preventing the consequences of environmental stress before behavioral symptoms become visible. Dr. Naviaux’s new study looks at data from the newborn screening program for patterns of metabolic dysregulation that indicate autism risk.
Dr. Naviaux’s study has three phases. In the first phase, it will look at newborn screening data from California’s NBS program. All babies born in California are screened for over 80 disorders using a few spots of blood from pricking the heel. About 60 different measurements are done on the blood spots, looking for metabolites, the substances necessary for metabolism. These metabolites include acylcarnitine, amino acids, etc. Mitochondrial dysfunction is correlated with about 50 metabolites on this test. READ MORE HERE.