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Australian Scientists Developed Genetic Testing for Early Detection of Autism

Posted Sep 15 2012 1:50pm

A team of researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia, developed a revolutionary genetic test that can help predict a child’s risk of developing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the Herald Sun reports.

Lead researcher Professor Stan Skafidas and colleagues said the blood test could help clinicians detect the disorder and provide early intervention , especially to high-risked babies and young children.

The test is based on measuring both the genetic markers that protect and contribute to the risk of ASD. A higher overall score indicates an individual’s risk of developing autism.

Professor Skafidas, Director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Melbourne, added that the protective markers could one day allow researchers to try to develop drugs to treat the disorder.

The test correctly predicted ASD with more than 70 per cent accuracy in people of central European descent. Additional research is needed to determine whether the genetic test will also be effective in other ethnic groups.

Using US data from more than 7000 individuals, the researchers identified 237 genetic markers (SNPs) in 146 genes and related cellular pathways that either contribute to or protect an individual from developing ASD.

Clinical neuropsychologist Dr Renee Testa from the University of Melbourne and Monash University, said the test would allow medical professionals to provide early interventions that may reduce behavioral and cognitive difficulties that children and adults with ASD experience.

In the United States, about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

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