Monday 3 April 2017

Decreased urinary creatinine levels associated with autism (again)

One finding in particular stood out from those reported by Lussu and colleagues [1] following some nifty metabolomic investigations: decreased levels of urinary creatinine in their cohort of participants diagnosed as on the autism spectrum (n=21) compared with "controls (n = 21), these being siblings of autistic patients."

Based on the "use of 1 H-NMR metabolomics to analyze the global biochemical signature of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] patients" researchers turned again to a favourite topic of this blog - metabolomics -  and how the detection and identification of small molecules in various biofluids (urine, blood, saliva, etc) might be particularly informative. Metabolomics is, in essence, all about two things: (i) the analytical technology used to analyse a sample and (ii) the statistical technology used to make sense of the chemical analysis. If one assumes that a biofluid like urine literally contains thousands of compounds and small molecules, you get a flavour for the task facing researchers in this area.

I've talked metabolomics a few times on this blog with autism in mind (see here and see here for examples) but have chosen to zoom in on the Lussu findings in relation to an interesting compound called creatinine. Creatinine is a break-down product of creatine phosphate typically found in muscle. It's generally used as a rough-and-ready guide to the dilution of a urine sample given that it is produced at quite constant rate (see here).

In my day job, I continue to have some interest when it comes to creatinine (urinary) in the context of autism as per some research published a decade or so back [2]. My colleagues and I reported: "Controlling for sample pH and body mass index [BMI], a significant decrease in urinary creatinine concentration was found in the PDD [pervasive developmental disorder] group compared to controls." Other [independent] researchers have also reported similar things [3] when it comes to blood levels of creatinine in the context of autism.

Unfortunately I don't yet have a good explanation as to why creatinine seems to be on the low side when it comes to at least some autism bearing in mind issues such as BMI can seemingly affect values. I do find in interesting that muscle mass may have a bearing on urinary creatinine excretion and could perhaps stretch an association with [some] autism on the basis of more generalised issues with muscle function or tone (see here). That low urinary creatinine *may* also point to issues with kidney function is also interesting and invites quite a bit more study on this organ in relation to autism...

Music: Acceptable in the 80's.


[1] Lussu M. et al. The urinary 1 H-NMR metabolomics profile of an italian autistic children population and their unaffected siblings. Autism Res. 2017 Mar 11.

[2] Whiteley P. et al. Spot urinary creatinine excretion in pervasive developmental disorders. Pediatr Int. 2006 Jun;48(3):292-7.

[3] West PR. et al. Metabolomics as a tool for discovery of biomarkers of autism spectrum disorder in the blood plasma of children. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 7;9(11):e112445.

---------- Lussu M, Noto A, Masili A, Rinaldi AC, Dessì A, De Angelis M, De Giacomo A, Fanos V, Atzori L, & Francavilla R (2017). The urinary 1 H-NMR metabolomics profile of an italian autistic children population and their unaffected siblings. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research PMID: 28296209


  1. My girl is on the autism spectrum and she has low bun levels


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