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Finding Autism’s Chemical Clues Will Help Diagnose It Earlier in Life

Researchers from University at Buffalo have spent lots of time over the past few years trying to identify autism’s chemical clues. If the team succeeds, the first biological test for diagnosing autism could be within reach.

The research team aims to identify chemical compounds that appear in significant amounts in the urine of autistic children. Once pinpointed, such a clue would allow clinicians to identify autism not by observing behavior, but with a more objective approach of urine testing. A biological test for autism could help diagnose the disease earlier, when the chances to succeed with the treatment are higher.

Pilot studies have shown possible distinctive chemical traits of autistic children urine. For example, two compounds content seemed abnormally low in children with autism: the reduced form of glutathione and stercobilin.
Depleted amounts of these compounds are an indicator of oxidative stress, which is believed to play a role in autism.

To verify these preliminary results, the researchers plan to conduct a larger study. That would involve analysis of 75 to 100 urine samples from children with autism and the same amount of urine samples from healthy children.

In addition to stercobilin and reduced glutathione, the researchers also identified a bunch of other compounds in the urine that may correlate with autism. Finding as many as possible such compounds is necessary for developing a reliable biological test for autism. The team hopes that the large-scale study would shed light on these compounds.