Groundbreaking research by Dr Haitham Amal, head of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Laboratory of Neuromics, Cell Signaling, and Translational Medicine, has given new hope for the early diagnosis of autism. He is studying the alterations in brain and blood that often act as early indicators of the onset of autism.
Dr Amal’s research has shown that the prevalence of autism has risen to about 1 in every 56 births as opposed to 1 in every 88 births in 2012. His research team is now relentlessly pushing the envelope when it comes to understanding autism, of which, still very little is known.
Talking to the Israeli news website NoCamels about the research, he said, “We are close to identifying the biological alterations in the brain. We are hopeful that we have identified therapeutic markers and we have submitted three provisional patents.” He also informed that two of these patents have shown very promising therapeutics and one is for diagnosis in a laboratory test. However, he did acknowledge that there is neither a medical nor a pharmacological test to determine autism yet.
Dr Amal also explained that about 20% of autism diagnoses can be traced back to genetics-based origins and the remaining 80% are idiopathic – whose exact cause is unknown. He said, “It could be environmental, maybe related to pregnancy or toxicants. This is precisely one of the things that we are trying to discover, we want to understand exactly what’s happening.” Working the environmental angle, Dr Amal is also conducting research into the possible relationship between higher concentrations of arsenic in the water supply in many places like the USA, India, China, and Argentina, and brain alterations leading to lower IQ and autism.
For the next stage of his research, Dr Amal is planning to recruit 20 autistic and 20 non-autistic children to further study the biomarkers of autism.