UC IRVINE: Researchers To Conduct Landmark Study Of Autism
The University of California Irvine's College of Medicine and School of Social Ecology has won two grants, totalling $5.8 million, to "crack the genetic codes" for autism. The Los Angeles Times reports the grants will permit researchers to spend the next five years "searching for brain abnormalities in participants and studying the genetic components of autism," a hereditary neurological disorder that usually manifests itself in children before the age of three. Autism was once thought to affect between three and four people in 10,000, but epidemiologists now believe it is more common, affecting one in 500 to 1,000. Project director Dr. Anne Spence, a UCI geneticist and professor of pediatrics, said, "When you look at kids who behave in autistic fashion, it's got to be more than one disorder." The project hopes to "pinpoint" which factors are involved.
According to the Times, the grants will fund two parallel studies. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Pauline Filipek will use the first, a $1.5 million award from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, to "expand her existing magnetic resonance imaging studies of the brains of autistic people." The second, a $4.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, will fund three related projects: Dr. Filipek's analysis of MRI results; a study of behavioral regression in autistic children; and an effort to unravel autism's genetic code. Dr. Wendy Goldberg, associate professor of psychology and social behavior, will conduct the behavioral regression portion of the second study. Dr. Spence and molecular geneticist Dr. Moyra Smith will complete the portion involving chromosome analysis (Richardson, 3/11).