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NIH joined by advocacy groups to fund research on autism susceptibility genes

Five institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and three private autism organizations have formed a consortium to pursue their common goal of understanding a devastating disorder. This public-private partnership has funded five grants representing three projects to identify genes that may contribute to the development of autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health will administer the $10.8 million awards over the next five years.

The participating NIH institutes are The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The voluntary organizations contributing funds are Cure Autism Now (CAN), National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR), and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC).

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes severe and pervasive impairment in thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. In an average year, one to six new cases of autism arise per 1,000 children. Experts believe that as high as 90 percent of the variance in the disorder is due to hereditary factors, and research suggests a strong interaction between environmental factors and multiple unknown genes. As researchers gain a better understanding of the genes responsible for autism, they may be better able to distinguish between the different variants of the disorder and to develop targeted therapies and interventions to treat them.

"This initiative seeks to expand our knowledge of the genetic factors involved in this disorder that affects so many families, said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D. "New technologies in gene research can allow scientists
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Contact: Jennifer Loukissas
nimhpress@nih.gov
301-443-4536
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health
19-Oct-2005


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