2020 Jenike Young Investigator Award

Using a machine learning approach to identify immune biomarkers associated with PANS/PANDAS

Lauren Breithaupt, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)

Award Amount: $50,000

Despite recent research into Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS) and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), clinicians and researchers often struggle to differentiate childhood OCD and PANDAS/PANS. These two conditions require different clinical treatment protocols, but there is no biological test to confirm that a child indeed does have PANDAS/PANS vs. OCD.

Dr. Breithaupt and her team will analyze a very large set of biological data from a group of children with PANDAS/PANS, a group of children with PANDAS/PANS who have symptoms that make it difficult for them to eat (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or ARFID), as well as a group of children with more typical childhood OCD, and a group of healthy children. Their approach uses machine learning — a form of artificial intelligence — to sift through this large volume of data to find hidden patterns. The goal is to identify proteins in the blood that could serve as a unique marker that a child has PANDAS/PANS, which could not only lead to a new diagnostic test, but also provide useful information for the development of new medications. Dr. Breithaupt and her team have recently completed the proteomics analysis of largest dataset of adolescent OCD, PANDAS, and ARFID, and are eager to present the results in 2023.