A urine test for autism? It doesn’t exist yet. But a team of University of Buffalo researchers has identified distinctive patterns of chemicals in the urine of autistic children – findings that suggest a simple diagnostic test for the condition could be within reach.
UB researchers have spent years hunting for chemical clues to autism, by examining the urine of children with the condition and comparing it to that of children without the disorder.
The goal of the research, led by UB chemist Troy Wood, is to pinpoint molecular compounds that appear in distinct amounts in the urine of children with autism. If the team is successful, a biological test for diagnosing the disorder could be developed to give clinicians a more objective way of identifying autism, now diagnosed by observing behavior.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
"We're trying to understand, at the molecular level, how autism is occurring and manifesting itself," said Wood, an associate professor of chemistry. "A biological test for autism could assist with early diagnosis, which is critical because if you can identify children with autism early in life, the outcome is going to be better."
Small studies in Wood's laboratory have uncovered a number of distinctive chemical traits in the urine of autistic kids. For instance, Wood’s studies have found autistic children have abnormally low levels of two compounds – glutathione and stercobilin – believed to be indicators of oxidative stress, which is thought to play a role in autism.
Wood now plans to conduct a larger study, analyzing 75 to 100 urine samples from children with autism, and an equal number of urine samples from kids without the disorder.
"The hope is to be able to eliminate some of the subjectiveness in diagnosing autism, and to get a better understanding of what's actually causing it," said Zachary Fine, who helped process urine samples in Wood's lab. "They're saying that more children have autism today than before, but it's not clear if that's because their understanding the disease better, or if people are just diagnosing it more."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.