Cure Autism Now & Autism Speaks Contributions to Autism Genome Project
Posted Oct 01 2008 8:04pm
Almost lost in all the recent excitement about the Autism Genome Project was the substantial contributions of Cure Autism Now and Autism Speaks which recently merged based on their mutual commitment to accelerate and fund biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increase awareness of the nation's fastest-growing developmental disorder; and to advocate for the needs of affected individuals and families. A gene bank created in 1997 by Cure Autism Now, later joined by UCLA was a precursor to the massive data bank assembled for the Autism Genome Project which kick started in 2002 with funding by Autism Speaks and the National Institute of Health. "The UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior is among 13 centers in the world to discover two genetic links that cause autism, according to a school press release.
The five year study, which was published in the Feb. 18 online edition of the journal Nature Genetics, came from results from a scan of the world's largest collection of DNA samples from families affected by this disorder.
The study was led by the Autism Genome Project, an international consortium of scientists from 50 institutions in 19 countries. Founded in 2002 with funding from the nonprofit Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health, the group shared DNA samples, data and expertise in a coordinated effort to identify autism-susceptibility genes, according to the press release.
Results of the two-pronged approach implicated both a previously unidentified region of chromosome 11 and neurexin 1, a member of a gene family believed to play a key role in communication between brain cells. The neurexin finding highlighted a group of brain cells called glutamate neurons and the genes affecting their development and function, suggesting that they play a critical role in autism spectrum disorders, also according to the press release.
In 1997, the citizens group Cure Autism Now (CAN) created a gene bank in order to advance genetic research on autism. UCLA partnered with CAN to add more than 400 families to the bank, known as the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that strikes in early childhood, often affecting children as young as 2 or 3. The condition disrupts a child's ability to communicate and develop social relationships and is often accompanied by acute behavioral challenges. While the cause remains unknown, scientists suspect the disease is highly hereditary."