The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Center for Autism Research is joining the launch of the United States’ largest autism research study. The study is called SPARK and it combines a web-based registry with DNA analysis to accelerate autism research and to speed discovery of potential autism treatments and supports.
There is much to learn about autism. One thing we know, for certain, is autism is not caused by vaccines. The reality is that autism is known to have a strong genetic component. CHOP’s Center for Autism Research is among the national research institutions that have been chosen to participate in SPARK. Those who want to learn more about basic science, cognitive neuroscience, and development science related to autism can find it on the Center for Autism Research website.
SPARK is sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). The name “SPARK” is an acronym for “Simmons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge”.
SPARK will collect information and DNA for genetic analysis from 50,000 individuals who have autism – and also from their families – for the purpose of advancing our understanding of the causes of autism. The hope is that the study will hasten the discovery of supports for people who have autism and potential treatments for autism.
To date, there are approximately 50 genes that have been identified that almost certainly play a role in autism. Scientists estimate that an additional 300 (or more) genes are also involved. By studying these genes, associated biological mechanisms, and how genetics interact with environmental factors, researchers can better understand autism’s causes. That understanding will help researchers link the causes to the spectrum of symptoms, skills, and challenges of those who are affected by autism.
SPARK is inviting participation in this study from the large, diverse, autism community. The goal is to include individuals with a professional diagnosis of autism of both sexes, and all ages, backgrounds, races, geographic locations and socioeconomic situations.
Director of CHOP’s Center for Autism, Robert T. Schultz, said that because the causes and manifestations of autism spectrum disorders are so varied, extremely large samples of patients are needed for genetic discoveries. Those who are interested in participating can visit www.SPARKforAutism.org/CHOP for more information.
The results of the research study could be helpful people who have autism and also to families who have a family member who has autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s Autism and Developmental Monitoring Network.
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