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Blood hints at autism's source

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2:27pm, April 12, 2005

From San Diego, at the Experimental Biology 2005 meeting

Researchers have identified a biochemical peculiarity in the blood of autistic children. The scientists say the finding could lead to earlier diagnosis of this neurological disorder and a better understanding of how certain genes may drive it.

Autism, which typically shows up in toddlers, is characterized by limited language skills, poor social interaction, repetitive behaviors, and limited interests. Autism often runs in families, which suggests a genetic cause.

However, "the incidence of autism has gone up dramatically in the last 15 years," notes S. Jill James, director of biochemical genetics at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "Because genes don't change that fast, this points to something in the environment as a trigger," she says.

In a study of the blood of some apparently healthy children, the biochemistry of one sample stood out. It came from an autistic boy. Curious, Jame

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