Naviaux Lab Identifies Metabolic Markers in Newborns in Hopes of Predicting Autism Spectrum Disorder

May 27, 2024

Newly Discovered Pathways Linked to Cell Danger Response Offer Potential for Early Detection and Improved Treatments

A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, including Dr. Robert Naviaux, recently used metabolomics to identify markers in newborns that might predict autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The researchers discovered that children with ASD exhibit distinct metabolic profiles that change with age, sex, and symptom severity. Additionally, the authors found that a small number of metabolic pathways, particularly those linked to the cell danger response (CDR), account for most of the metabolic changes between birth and the onset of ASD. These pathways involve reactions to injury or stress and may not develop normally in children with autism, leading to symptoms like heightened sensitivity to environmental stimuli. The study showed that using specific biomarkers, ASD could be distinguished from typical development in newborns and five-year-olds with 75% to 90% accuracy. This research suggests that metabolic profiles could be used for early detection and intervention, improving outcomes for individuals with autism by targeting these pathways with treatments, such as the drug suramin, which affects ATP signaling involved in the CDR. The findings also highlight the importance of metabolic health in neurodevelopment and the potential for new therapies based on these insights.

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