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New blood test used to detect mental disabilities cleared by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration -- the federal agency dedicated to "advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable" -- recently made a very important announcement that could have a major impact on the area of Social Security Disability benefits for mental conditions.

Last Friday, FDA officials announced that they had given the green light to a new type of blood test manufactured by Affymetrix that is able to help diagnose mental disabilities in babies, including both Down's syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome.

How exactly is this accomplished?

Known as the CytoScan Dx Assay, the test uses a technique referred to as microarray analysis. This essentially involves using a high-powered computer scanner to analyze a patient's blood sample for chromosomal imbalances/variations otherwise linked to various intellectual disabilities.

While microarray analysis may sound like something out a science fiction novel, the technology has actually been around for several years. However, the work of scanning for chromosomal imbalances was previously performed by scientists using microscopes instead of advanced scanners.

While pediatric experts are understandably encouraged by the FDA's decision to approve the test, which should provide a faster and more thorough screening process, they also urged the public to understand that the test is only to be administered if children demonstrate symptoms typically associated with a mental disability.

"When there's something about the child that strikes us as unusual or pointing to a potential genetic disease, that's when we would use this testing," said one assistant professor of pediatrics at a renowned New York hospital. "This is not a screening test to be done on all newborns to predict how they are going to do in school when they are five."

Given that the National Institutes of Health has determined that roughly 2-3 percent of children in the U.S. have some type of mental condition, this test should prove to be truly invaluable going forward.

If you would like to learn more about securing Social Security Disability benefits for mental conditions, consider speaking with an experienced attorney dedicated to securing the assistance you need and deserve.

Source: ABC News, "FDA OKs mental disability blood test for infants," Matthew Perrone, Jan. 17, 2014

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