Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed in approximately 2% of children. Reliance on the emergence of clinically observable behavioral patterns only delays the mean age of diagnosis to approximately 4 years. However, neural pathways critical to language and social functions develop during infancy, and current diagnostic protocols miss the age when therapy would be most effective. We developed non-invasive ASD biomarkers using mass spectrometry analyses of elemental metabolism in single hair strands, coupled with machine learning. We undertook a national prospective study in Japan, where hair samples were collected at 1 month and clinical diagnosis was undertaken at 4 years. Next, we analyzed a national sample of Swedish twins and, in our third study, participants from a specialist ASD center in the US. In a blinded analysis, a predictive algorithm detected ASD risk as early as 1 month with 96.4% sensitivity, 75.4% specificity, and 81.4% accuracy (n = 486; 175 cases). These findings emphasize that the dynamics in elemental metabolism are systemically dysregulated in autism, and these signatures can be detected and leveraged in hair samples to predict the emergence of ASD as early as 1 month of age.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7154
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • biomarkers
  • diagnostic testing
  • dynamical methods
  • environmental exposures
  • exposomics
  • hair assays
  • metal exposures
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • prognostic testing


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