U of M researchers help predict which high-risk babies will develop autism

U of M researchers working to predict autism

EAGAN, Minn. -- Kammy Kramer is one proud Mom. Proud of her three kids: Elliot, Henry, and Ada.

"I have every hope that our kids can achieve anything they want," Kramer said.

But, Kammy hasn't always felt that way. She was scared when her oldest, Elliot, was diagnosed with autism in 2003. Six years later, they found out Ada had autism too.

"There were days that she seemed completely with it and other days we would say her name standing five feet behind her and she wouldn't respond," Kramer said.

The Kramers have been to the University of Minnesota hundreds of times over the last decade, to see specialists and take part in research trials. Now, there's been a huge discovery that could positively change their lives and the lives of anyone living with autism.

"With a high degree of accuracy, we were able to predict which babies went on to develop this disorder based on some of the brain changes," said Jason Wolff, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota.

Detecting autism earlier in life. Wolff and Jed Elison, also an assistant professor at the U of M, co-authored a nationwide study that found an unusual growth pattern in the brain of certain infants.

"It's involving many different areas, which makes sense given how complex autism is," Wolff said.

They used an MRI on infants who have older siblings with autism. What they learned could someday become a regular test at the doctor's office.

"That's the promise of this initial finding. Of course, as scientists we know we have to replicate this finding in a new sample," said Elison.

A first step in the right direction.

"This is a new opportunity to think about how we could impact the lives of children with Autism. It's a window into what's happening before autism is really apparent," Wolff said.

Kramer agrees. She knows exactly how this could help parents.

"The earlier the better. We can help. You can start your journey that much earlier," Kramer said.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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