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New Study Could Link Saliva Protein Signature to ASD

RENO, NV--(Marketwired - June 09, 2015) - A new study has found a potential correlation between saliva protein levels and autism diagnoses in children. More research could lead to the development of a saliva test to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in people of all ages.

The study, conducted by researchers at Clarkson University and SUNY Plattsburgh, was published in the January 27 issue of Autism Research. In the paper, researchers reported differences between the saliva proteins present in typical children and children diagnosed with ASD. More specifically, nine types of proteins were significantly elevated in children with ASD, while three types were lower or absent in these children.

This study is of monumental significance in suggesting a protein complex could be a biomarker for ASD. Not only would the study provide researchers with information about the disease, but also about the proteins, their modifications and how they interact with each other.

Researchers looked at six children ages six to 16 who had been diagnosed with autism and compared their saliva tests to six typical children of similar ages.

Diagnosis isn't the only goal, Dr. Alisa G. Woods, a lead researcher on the study affiliated with both participating universities said in a recent interview with Kirkman®. "Understanding biomarkers will also help us to elucidate the causes of ASD and to understand possible ASD subtypes."

Researchers originally chose to test saliva because of the non-invasive nature of the test. Avoiding fearful situations for children -- especially those with ASD -- is an important step for parents and doctors. This is one reason the idea of a saliva test to diagnose ASD is so appealing, especially in infants.

The next step for researchers is a larger study.

The group has already obtained grant funding to test more children, but additional funds would allow for even more participants to be included and a larger sample provided, Dr. Woods explained. Additional studies will also include behavioral tests to compare to saliva samples.

A larger study is not all that is needed. To validate the approach to diagnosing autism, not only do researchers need to look at a larger sample of children in varying age groups, including infants, they also need to test the technology with a blind eye.

"We need… to validate that the approach works by testing its reliability for diagnosing autism in samples that we are blind to," Dr. Woods said.

Researchers like the idea of a saliva test for infants because it is easy to collect saliva from infants when they drool, Dr. Woods explained. However, whether or not the test will transfer to a different age group is still unclear.

"We will only know that when we do the study in infants," she said.

While the ultimate goal is to develop a test that will make early diagnosis possible and easier, Dr. Woods said researchers would also like to create an objective diagnostic test for individuals of all ages since ASD can be missed at any age, even into adulthood.

Image Available: http://www.marketwire.com/library/MwGo/2015/6/9/11G044381/Images/Alisa_Woods_3-792404395458.jpg

Kulani Mahikoa
Executive Vice President
Kirkman Group, Inc.
Telephone: 503-694-1600

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