New test could diagnose autism in minutes – and all you need is a strand of hair | The Sun

SCIENTISTS have developed a revolutionary new test that can detect autism in babies from a single strand of hair.

The new test, which can predict the developmental disorder years before symptoms appear, looks for the presence of certain metals which are higher in people with autism.

By analysing a single strand of hair, scientists can predict autism in babies with 81 per cent accuracy, research found.

There is currently no standard test for the condition, instead doctors must make a judgement based of the child's past and present behaviour.

On average, children in the UK with autism get diagnosed at six, with girls often waiting longer.

The test creators from US start-up LinusBio claim the innovation might help doctors identify autism in young children before they miss developmental milestones.

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"We can detect the clear rhythm of autism with just about one centimeter of hair," Manish Arora, the company's co-founder and CEO, told NBC News. 

"The problem with autism is it’s diagnosed at the age of four on average. By that time, so much brain development has already happened. 

"We want to enable early intervention."

The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, with the developers now working on a new expanded study involving 2,000 people.

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New autism research suggests the sooner a child gets diagnosed and receives help, the greater the chance for learning and progress.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an incurable, lifelong developmental condition that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.

It affects around one in 100 people in the UK and is three to four times more common in boys than in girls.

The exact cause is unknown, but can occur as a result of a number of genetic, environmental and unknown factors.

Many scientists think that a child inherits certain genes that make them more susceptible to ASD from their parents.

Other researchers claim these genes are only triggered if they are exposed to certain environmental factors.

What are the signs and symptoms of autism?

The NHS outlines the signs of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in school-age children.

Spoken language

  • preferring to avoid using spoken language
  • speech that sounds very monotonous or flat
  • speaking in pre-learned phrases, rather than putting together individual words to form new sentences
  • seeming to talk "at" people, rather than sharing a two-way conversation

Responding to others

  • taking people’s speech literally and being unable to understand sarcasm, metaphors or figures of speech
  • reacting unusually negatively when asked to do something by someone else

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Interacting with others

  • not being aware of other people’s personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space
  • little interest in interacting with other people, including children of a similar age, or having few close friends, despite attempts to form friendships
  • not understanding how people normally interact socially, such as greeting people or wishing them farewell
  • being unable to adapt the tone and content of their speech to different social situations – for example, speaking very formally at a party and then speaking to total strangers in a familiar way
  • not enjoying situations and activities that most children of their age enjoy
  • rarely using gestures or facial expressions when communicating
  • avoiding eye contact


  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, rocking back and forth, or flicking their fingers
  • playing in a repetitive and unimaginative way, often preferring to play with objects rather than people
  • developing a highly specific interest in a particular subject or activity
  • preferring to have a familiar routine and getting very upset if there are changes to their normal routine
  • having a strong like or dislike of certain foods based on the texture or colour of the food as much as the taste
  • unusual sensory interests – for example, children with ASD may sniff toys, objects or people inappropriately

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