Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication, and restricted, stereotyped behaviors that manifest in early childhood. Research findings have identified widespread changes in the immune system in children with autism.
In order to identify individuals with ASD and treat them at the earliest possible age, a blood biomarker for the disorder is highly desirable. Dwight German and his colleagues have used a novel and unbiased approach — a combinatorial peptoid library — to screen blood samples for antibodies that are present in abnormal amounts in children with ASD. Such a method has previously been successfully used for the identification of antibody biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease1.
Using this approach, a potential biomarker was identified and found to be significantly lower in boys with ASD compared with typically developing boys. This biomarker was also found to be low in older adult males, suggesting that the antibody biomarker detects an immune-related factor that normally decreases with aging. These data suggest that the immune system of boys with ASD is similar to that of older men. German and his team are currently seeking to identify the specific antibody/antibodies that are recognized by this biomarker.