Pediatric Bioscience has created the MAR Test, or Maternal Antibody related test for autism.

Autism Research: ‘MAR Test’ In Development To Detect ‘Autoantibodies’ To Fetal Brain Proteins

Jan D’Alvise, the CEO of Pediatric Bioscience, was on the roster to speak at the 2015 Autism Investment Conference held by Autism Speaks describing her company’s MAR Test. Pediatric Bioscience was a major sponsor of the autism conference. The 2015 Autism Investment Conference focused “exploring the rapidly expanding opportunity landscape for business development and investment” associated with the growing incidence of autism, according to the Boston Business Journal.

The MAR Test, based on research published in Translational Psychiatry in 2013, identifies the presence of ‘autoantibodies’ in a woman’s blood that could signify a significant increase in risk of developing a type of autism, according to the company literature.

Dr. Judy Van de Water, a Pediatric Bioscience consultant, and another author on the study actually hold the patent on the brain proteins that were found to be linked to about one-quarter of all cases of autism, according to Medscape. They refer to this type as “MAR Autism,” or Maternal Antibody-Related Autism. According to the company’s website, “recent evidence suggests that at least some cases of autism are associated with autoimmune disorders, and that autoimmune disorders are more common in family members of children with autism compared to typically developing controls.”

Through research at the University of California, Davis, they have found what the authors state is good cause to believe that maternal antibodies to particular fetal brain proteins, which are now patented, are associated with the development of autism in the women’s children. With additional studies in this field examined, Pediatric Bioscience science advisers believe that maternal antibodies, which attack particular fetal brain proteins and have been coined “autoantibodies,” might interfere with the development of the fetal nervous system and result in autism. Pediatric Bioscience explains its MAR Test.

“The MAR Test is a non-invasive, simple blood test that will identify women who have an increased risk of having a child with autism. The test will measure seven (7) specific autoantibodies that have been linked to a form of autism that represents up to 1 in 4 of all diagnosed cases… Sometimes, the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies to the body’s own tissues. These are termed ‘autoantibodies’… The MAR Test is an informational test that will determine if an individual has autoantibodies to specific fetal brain proteins.”

The MAR Test received criticism from the scientific community early in its development. Emily Underwood wrote a feature article in Science about the potential MAR Test in 2013 and stated, “This isn’t the first time purported connections between the immune system and autism have ignited controversy.”

Dr. Van de Water told Medscape that the MAR Test results could help women evaluate their potential risks of having a child with this type of autism.

“It’s important to note that this would be a rule-in test, as a negative result would not necessarily mean that you would have a typically developing child, but if you are positive, your risk of having a child with ASD is greater than 99%.”

The MAR Test may expedite treatment for and even assist in the prevention of autism spectrum disorder,” according to U-T San Diego.

“A positive test in mothers of infants or young children could expedite referral for assessment, she said. Also, if given before a planned pregnancy, the test could help women decide whether they should turn to parenting alternatives such as surrogate pregnancy or adoption.”

The MAR Test is expected to cost around a grand and should be available later this year, but has garnered relatively little national media attention, despite the company’s sponsorship of the Autism Speaks conference.

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