Detecting autism through the retina

Hong KongResearchers use cameras and computer technology to analyze the retina to diagnose the risk of autism in children.

According to Professor Benny Zee Chung-ying, lead researcher and director of the Center for Clinical Research and Biological Statistics at the University of Hong Kong, China, this measure can be implemented quickly, without invasive intervention. . It helps determine if a child is at risk for developing a developmental disorder. 96% accuracy. However, due to the lack of research subjects, this measure has not been widely applied.

The team uses specialized cameras to take retinal pictures and scan for signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD have a larger diameter of the disc where optic nerve cells go, and the fovea, the part of the center of the disc, is larger than in children without ASD.

Tests performed with 46 children with ASD showed up to 96% accuracy. This result was published in The Lancet’s EclinicalMedicine in November 2020, reported by the media on 7/1.

Professor Zee said: “The results were quite surprising and better than I could have imagined. Even though I knew that the retinal imaging provided a lot of medical information, I don’t think it led to self-discovery. period “.

Zee said the technology could help assess the risk of autism in infants, but more research and testing is needed.

“Children with autism need to feel safe and they need to understand why they have to do specific things, otherwise they won’t cooperate. So in order to run the experiment, the physical element doesn’t matter. weight with the child’s will, “he said.

Retinal imaging and analysis equipment for autism diagnosis. Image: SCMP

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on average one in 54 children has ASD. This rate is higher in boys. Children with this syndrome have disabilities in human relations and language communication. Early intervention and therapies will help children to live independently. Therefore, Professor Zee believes that an early diagnosis is very important.

According to Sally Chiu Chung-man, a Hong Kong psychologist, parents who want to know if their child has ASD or not, they are forced to wait for the results in public health facilities. This process requires a lot of work. Using private services is faster, but at a higher cost.

Maria Lai Ming-po, assistant director of the center at the University of Hong Kong China, said early intervention, before the age of six, increases the likelihood of success. Therefore, early diagnosis for children helps parents to easily choose intervention therapies.

Maria hopes this study helps to prepare families better. “We have heard of parents even wanting to kill their autistic child. I hope we can avert those tragedies,” she said.

Hai Chi (According to the SCMP)


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