Can Breakthrough Research Predict Autism in Siblings of Children with Autism?
Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology researchers participated in a national study that predicted, with 80% accuracy, the likelihood of autism in babies who have an older sibling with the disorder. It’s estimated that one out of every 100 babies born in the U.S. develops autism. The risk may be as high as 20 out of every 100 births for infants with older siblings with the disorder.
Researchers conducted MRI scans of sleeping infants at six, 12 and 24 months of age. A special computer program known as a “machine learning algorithm” was subsequently used to predict which babies would develop autism by two years of age. Typically, autism is diagnosed later, i.e., between two and three years of age. An earlier diagnosis would allow health care professionals to intervene presymptomatically, when the brain is still pliable.
Mallinckrodt was one of five clinical sites participating in the first-of-its-kind study. “Over 100 high risk and control infants longitudinally were scanned as part of this project,” says Kelly Botteron, MD, professor of psychiatry and radiology. Botteron’s MIR colleagues, Robert McKinstry, MD, PhD, professor of radiology, and John Pruett, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and radiology, also participated in the study. “I’m not sure how many of the subjects are ours, except we tend to have the most in any publication,” adds Botteron.
The breakthrough study grabbed the attention of local and national media, including the NBC Nightly News, the “Today” show and St. Louis CBS-affiliate KMOV-TV.