She has similar information for nine other children -- four with the disorder and five without -- and she has spent the past few years sifting through this puzzle of data for autism's chemical clues.
The goal of the research, led by UB chemist Troy Wood, is to pinpoint an array of molecular compounds that appear in distinct amounts in the urine of children with autism. If the team is successful, a biological test for diagnosing the disorder -- so far elusive -- could be within reach.
Such a test would provide clinicians with a more objective way of identifying autism, which is currently diagnosed by observing behavior.
"We're trying to understand, at the molecular level, how autism is occurring and manifesting itself," said Wood, an associate professor of chemistry. "A biological test for autism could assist with early diagnosis, which is critical because if you can identify children with autism early in life, the outcome is going to be better."
Pilot studies in Wood's laboratory have uncovered what may be a number of distinctive chemical traits in the urine of children with autism.
For example, compounds that appeared at depleted levels include the reduced form of glutathione -- a finding that Cruickshank, a UB PhD graduate, outlined in the dissertation she defended this May. Levels of stercobilin, another substance, also seemed abnormally low.
Deficiencies of both of these compounds are an indicator of oxidative stress, which some researchers believe plays a role in autism, Wood said.
To verify these preliminary results, which have not been published in a journal, Wood is hoping to complete a larger, validation study. Such a study would analyze 75 to 100 urine samples from children with autism, and an equal number of urine samples from children in a control group.
Besides stercobilin and reduced glutathione, Wood and his team have also identified a handful of other compounds in the urine that may be correlated with autism. He noted that for a biological test to be reliable, scientists will need to identify not just one or two compounds that are biomarkers for autism, but several.
Cruickshank, now a postdoctoral researcher at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo., and Zachary Fine, a former UB student who helped process urine samples in Wood's lab, said they hoped their work would eventually lead, one day, to real benefits for children with autism. Both researchers have friends who either had the disorder themselves or had family members with autism.
"The hope is to be able to eliminate some of the subjectiveness in diagnosing autism, and to get a better understanding of what's actually causing it," said Fine, who graduated in May with a bachelor of science in chemistry and is now a quality assurance analyst at Johnson & Johnson. "They're saying that more children have autism today than before, but it's not clear if that's because they're understanding the disease better, or if people are just diagnosing it more."
The research in Wood's laboratory on autism biomarkers is conducted, in part, with a Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometer that was purchased in 2011 using a National Institutes of Health stimulus grant.
Charlotte Hsu | Newswise Science News
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy