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Ohio Gene Research to Delve Into Autism's Causes

Experts say nearly 50 genes have been linked to autism, and researchers hope to pinpoint more with the results of a new study. (Pixabay)
Experts say nearly 50 genes have been linked to autism, and researchers hope to pinpoint more with the results of a new study. (Pixabay)
April 25, 2016

CINCINNATI – Just as Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, an Ohio hospital is helping to launch one of the biggest autism studies in U.S. history.

The project is known as SPARK, and over the next three years, it will collect information and DNA from about 50,000 people with autism and their families.

Cincinnati Children's is assisting with recruitment, led by Dr. Craig Erickson. He explains the goal is to gain a better genetic understanding of autism to accelerate new treatment development.

"We see things like increased rates of autism around the world, and that's really of significant public health relevance,” he states. “So, not only parents of kids with autism, but other folks that may want to know what their risks may be associated with autism in future generations – I think we're going to help inform all of that."

An estimated one in 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The project combines a Web-based registry with genetic analysis. It is sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative and involves 20 other research institutions.

Erickson explains that nearly 50 genes have been linked to autism, with another 300 possibly involved. By examining these genes, he says researchers hope to uncover the causes of autism, and link them to the spectrum of symptoms, skills and challenges of those affected.

"It's the idea that you kind of chip away at improving treatment – maybe 1 or 2 percent of cases at a time – and eventually it adds up,” he says. “It may well be that we're going to narrow it down and find effective treatments for small subgroups at a time. And this really moves that forward."

Erickson adds the study needs participants of all genders, ages, backgrounds, races, geographic locations and socioeconomic situations.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH