The subject of intense research for decades, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) still baffles scientists, frustrates parents and teachers, and confuses the general public. Autism was first labeled 110 years ago, but it wasn’t until 1987 that the medical profession expanded the disorder to include a range of symptoms. We now know that autism has varied causes, although genetics and differences in brain development are the primary factors. According to the CDC, 1 in 59 children is identified with ASD. Numerous wearables focus on diagnosing autism or helping people with ASD learn and cope. For example, a Google Glass app helps with social skills, the Snap wearable provides a proactive tool to ward off anxiety for people with ASD, and the Avacen 100 uses dry heat to mimic fever to relieve ASD behaviors.

Working as part of the Children’s Autism Metabolome Project (CAMP), researchers from University of California – Davis Health and NeuroPointDX published results of their search for ASD biomarker diagnostics in Biological Psychiatry. According to the research team, an amino acid dysregulation metabotypes blood panel could accelerate diagnosis.  The group discovered that studying molecular materials called metabolomes — that remain after larger molecules have been broken down — may hold an important clue in ASD diagnosis. In their tests, the team analyzed the metabolomes of 1,100 children, two-thirds of whom were previously diagnosed with ASD. They found that 17% of the children with ASD had a unique combination of metabolomes. Because ASD varies between individuals, the researchers didn’t expect to find a single biomarker for all expressions of autism but claim the 17% hit rate of one biomarker combination is a significant start. This study was the first reported results from the CAMP.

Earlier and faster ASD diagnosis can help children receive intensive behavioral therapy sooner, which is an effective treatment according to the UC-Davis Health team. If the CAMP identifies additional biomarkers for various forms or combinations of ASD, it could lead to faster diagnosis and earlier intervention for more children on the autism spectrum.