Scientists have designed a universal test for autism in infants that uses a strand of hair.

It analyzes the sample for levels of metals such as lead and aluminum – which are higher in autistic children.

The test involves sending a sample of hair to a lab for analysis and was shown in peer-reviewed studies to accurately predict autism 81 percent of the time.

It has been described as ‘groundbreaking’ by independent scientists and is now being fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

New test scans hair for warning signs of condition caused by genetic risk factors

Other scientists heralded the test as a ‘groundbreaking’ development for the notoriously difficult-to-diagnose condition affecting 5.4 million Americans and 700,000 Britons.

Because there is no standard test for the condition, doctors must rely on the child’s developmental history and behavior.

As such, children in the US are usually only officially diagnosed at the age of four, whereas in the UK the average age is six years.

But scientists at a New York-based startup called LinsBio said their new test should be used in conjunction with other methods, not on its own.

But they insist it could help shorten the diagnostic window.

The company’s co-founder and CEO Manish Arora said, ‘We can detect the clear rhythm of autism with just one centimeter of hair. nbc news,

‘The problem with autism is that it is diagnosed at an average age of four years. Till then the brain has developed so much.

‘We want to enable early intervention.’

For the test, scientists first use a laser to chip away the surface layer of the hair.

A second, more powerful, laser is then run along the hair taking measurements at 650 points for every centimeter. This also turns the strand into plasma.

It checks for substances linked to autism, including lead, cadmium, arsenic, zinc and copper, among other metals.

Previous research has found higher levels of all three elemental metals in the hair of autistic children.

Researchers are not sure why this is, although it may be linked to genetic factors or exposure to substances in the environment.

The results are then fed into a computer program that looks for patterns that indicate autism.

It was developed by studying hundreds of people in Sweden and the US.

Just one centimeter – less than half an inch – records about a month’s exposure to the environment.

The scientists tested their method on hair collected from 220 Japanese babies when they were about one month old.

The results were then compared to a clinical diagnosis of autism when the youth were about four years old.

The scientists found that their test correctly identified autism in 394 cases (81 percent of the total).

It correctly identified 96.4 percent of children with autism, and correctly gave the all-clear for 75.4 percent of children who did not have autism.

Results were published in Journal of Clinical MedicineWith the developers are now working on a new expanded study involving 2,000 people.

Scientists not involved in the research voiced their support behind the trial, but said more research is needed.

‘The technology is incredibly novel,’ said Dr Andrea Baccarelli, an environmental health science expert at Columbia University in New York City.

‘The use of hair and the kinds of measurements they’re doing with the hair is innovative. This is unprecedented.

Dr Scott Myers, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at the Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, said: ‘There is certainly much more work to be done before we can conclude that this test is a valid measure of autism spectrum disorder risk.’

Autism is something that people are born with that causes their brain to work differently than other people.

People with the condition may struggle to communicate, find it difficult to understand how others think or feel, or become anxious and nervous at unfamiliar situations and social events.

Scientists are unclear on what causes the condition, although environmental and genetic factors are thought to be involved.

The UK health service NHS says it is not caused by poor parenting, vaccines, diet or infection.

Treatment focuses on providing affected people with a plan to aid their neurological and social development.

In other news…

The study found that diagnoses of autism among US children and adolescents increased by 50% in the three years from 2017.

Taking Xanax during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism in babies, a major study has ruled.

Scientists develop blood test that could detect Alzheimer’s in a potential gamechanger for the disease.

What is autism?

What does it mean to be autistic?

Being autistic doesn’t mean you have a disease or illness. This means that your mind works differently from other people’s.

It is something you are born with or first appears when you are very young.

If you are autistic, you have been autistic your whole life.

Autism is not a medical condition with a treatment or ‘cure’. But some people need support to help them with certain things.

Autistic people may:

find it difficult to communicate and interact with other people

Things like bright lights or loud noises seem overwhelming, stressful, or uncomfortable

find it difficult to understand how other people think or feel

feeling anxious or nervous about unfamiliar situations and social events

take longer to understand information

doing or thinking the same thing over and over again

What causes autism?

It is not clear what causes autism.

No one knows what causes autism, or if it has a cause. It can affect people of the same family. So it can sometimes be passed on to a child by their parents.

Autism is not caused by:

  • bad parenting
  • Vaccines like the MMR vaccine
  • Diet
  • an infection that you can spread to other people

source, NHS

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