Researchers use dirty diapers to develop new autism test

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PROVO — A group of researchers at Brigham Young University is looking for ways to detect autism in children earlier. And they’re using dirty diapers to do it.

Associate Professor Rebecca Lundwall is hoping to find a new way to test for autism in younger kids. She’s collecting samples from dirty diapers to help find links between what’s in that diaper and what’s going on in the brain.

“Some of the byproducts of the bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal tract produce precursors to neurotransmitters that act on your brain,” Lundwall said.

Lundwall is hoping this could be used in the future to develop a biological test for autism in young children.

“If we can catch these kids earlier, get them the kind of help they need so that they can live full, happy lives,” she said, “that would just make me so happy.”

She’s asking families with infants who have an older sibling with autism to join the study. Researchers also are in need of families with babies who have no known relatives with autism.

Participants will not actually send dirty diapers in the mail. Lundwall said researchers will mail parents special collection equipment to use for the study.

To take part, email the research team at [email protected]


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