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UIC joins international research effort to study autism

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are taking part in an international effort to gather DNA samples from 2,000 autism patients and their families over the next three years.

The initiative, called the Simons Simplex Collection, is the first coordinated effort to create a database of information about families with only one autistic child.

"This collection of DNA will allow researchers at UIC and at other centers to identify genetic factors that increase the risk of autism and to potentially develop interventional therapies and new drugs for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders," said Dr. Edwin Cook, professor of psychiatry, director of the UIC Autism Center of Excellence, and principal investigator of the study.

Autism is an often devastating and lifelong disorder that appears during the first three years of life. Children and adults with autism often have difficulty communicating and forming relationships. The variation of behaviors and level of functioning among people with autism differ greatly.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about one of every 150 eight-year-old children is diagnosed with some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism spectrum disorders occur in all populations and socioeconomic groups and are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.

Families eligible to participate in the study include those with only one child with an autism spectrum disorder, age four or older; one or more siblings without an autism spectrum disorder, age four or older; and unaffected biological parents who are willing to participate.

Eligible children with an autism spectrum disorder will receive a behavioral assessment and all family members will donate blood, a source of DNA. A small number of families with no siblings or siblings under the age of four may be eligible to participate in the study.

DNA gathered through the Simons Simplex Collection will be stored at a central repository.

Data gathered from the research will aid scientists from around the world who are searching for the causes of autism.

In addition to UIC, the Simons study is being conducted at Baylor University, Columbia University, Emory University, Harvard University, McGill University in Montreal, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri, the University of Washington, Vanderbilt University, Washington University, and Yale University.


Contact: Sherri McGinnis Gonzlez
University of Illinois at Chicago

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