Background Image

Identifying Biomarkers for Autism

In this Section

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 88 children in the United States has autism. 

Yet, there is currently no medical test to diagnose the condition.

Clarkson researchers Alisa Woods and Costel Darie are hoping to change that. The two are working to identify biomarkers for autism spectrum disorders in blood and saliva taken from children. They hope to find proteins that could help diagnose the condition early on and provide clues to what causes autism.

“Currently, children are diagnosed based on behavioral symptoms and this generally occurs around the age of two or three,” says Woods, a cognitive neuroscientist and research assistant professor of chemistry and biomolecular science. “This delay in treatment is significant and has implications for a child’s overall development. Confirming a biological basis for autism will also help reduce the stigma that surrounds it.”

In the Laboratory for Proteomics and Biochemistry, Costel Darie and his researchers are taking blood and saliva samples from children diagnosed with autism and from control subjects. The researchers separate the proteins and then, using mass spectrometry, are able to measure levels of hundreds of proteins at a time.

Their work is already yielding some results. The team has identified some promising protein markers that could form the basis of a diagnostic test. They have submitted this work to Molecular Psychiatry, and have also published research describing the approach
in the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry and the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

woods_dnaResearch Professor Alisa Woods