Infantile autism detected from a strand of hair?

An American start-up has developed a test to help diagnose autism in babies based on a single hair. This technique gave 81% reliable results.

This is the study that all the media has been talking about for a few days now. Linus Biotechnology, an American start-up, claims to have developed a test to help diagnose autism in babies, whose results were published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine on December 1, 2022 (in English). As ? From a single strand of hair.

objective early detection

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnosed in about 2% of children, according to the authors of the American study. Nonetheless, ” relying on the emergence of clinically observable behavioral patterns only delays the age of diagnosis “, in “ four years on average “.” Neural pathways essential for language and social functions develop in early childhood “, they specify, and this late observation does not allow establishing an adapted and personalized follow-up at the time when it would be most effective. Therefore, it is important to act early and, why not, from birth. ” The impact on the patient and family can be substantial. “said the co-founder and CEO of LinusBioManish Arora.

486 children in 3 countries

Therefore, a three-stage study was carried out with 486 children in geographically distinct populations: in infants less than one month old in Japan, then analyzing a national sample of Swedish twins, and finally in an ASD center in the United States. . The researchers based themselves on the search for certain substances, namely heavy metals (lead, aluminum, mercury) – several scientific studies have shown that exposure during pregnancy constitutes a risk factor for the development of autism -, as a diagnostic tool . ” Our approach contrasts with previous efforts that relied solely on genetic readouts to identify ASD biomarkers, explain the authors. Instead, we focus on the interface of genetically derived metabolic signatures with external environmental exposures. (…) that lead to TEA. »

81.4% accuracy

The predictive algorithm detected the risk of ASD with an accuracy of 81.4%, confirmed by the diagnosis of 175 children four years later. ” These results highlight that elemental metabolism dynamics are systematically dysregulated in autism, and these signatures can be detected and exploited in hair samples to predict the onset of ASD as early as one month of age. “, conclude the researchers.


However, they admit that caution is still needed and that this test should not be the only screening tool, but provide an additional clue to reduce diagnostic error. ” No health professional should say a child has autism based on this alone.said Manish Arora in an interview with NBC News. This provides crucial information, but not the only information. More studies, including more participants, are needed to confirm these findings. This technique can also be used in other cases such as ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), certain types of pediatric cancer or Charcot disease (ALS). More than a year after its launch in late 2021, Linus Biotechnology has raised $16 million to continue its research and “ deliver tangible results “.

Diagnosing a neurodevelopmental disorder from the cradle is also what functional ultrasound, developed by a French start-up and a group of scientists, promises. A first clinical trial is expected in early 2023 (article linked below).

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