Dr. Boccuto added, "We also see tremendous potential that these findings will aid in our understanding of the molecular and metabolic bases of autism. Once we have a clear vision of what has gone awry within the tryptophan metabolism pathways, we can develop therapies to target and correct those problems at the biochemical level."
L-tryptophan is one of twenty amino acids used by cells to make protein. It is one of eight amino acids that cannot be made by the body, so it must be obtained from the diet. More importantly, L-tryptophan plays an important role in brain development and function as it is the precursor of key neurochemicals such as serotonin and melatonin which have already been linked to behavioral and neurodevelopmental problems.
"This discovery leads us toward a possible unifying biochemical mechanism for ASDs which could ultimately lead to a treatment," shared Dr. Schwartz. "Now that we have additional evidence that the features of ASDs may be related to the metabolic pathways involving L-tryptophan, we can focus further studies on determining at what point along those pathways the disruption occurs, which may vary from one patient to another. With treatments that target various points along the pathway, a modality that works for one patient may not work for another."
GGC's autism research has been supported by funds from the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. Additional funding has been obtained from the National Institutes of Health to explore transitioning the research finding into a simple blood test for autism. Drs. Schwartz and Boccuto are currently evaluating the tryptophan metabolism in fresh blood samples from patients with ASDs and controls, utilizing customized Biolog plates.
"We are thrilled that Biolog's technology helped Dr. Schwartz in his pioneering research and that it has led to this breakthrough discovery," said Barry Bochner, PhD, CEO at Biolog, I
|Contact: Lori Bassett|
Greenwood Genetic Center