McMaster University

McMaster University

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Health Sciences

Autism research at McMaster receives major boost

Published: April 30, 2010
Peter Szatmari
Peter Szatmari, a professor of psychiatry at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine

A research team co-led by Dr. Peter Szatmari, a professor of psychiatry at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University has been awarded an $8.9 million grant from the Global Leadership Round in Genomics & Life Sciences (GL ²), which is part of the Ontario Research Fund (ORF) by the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI).

Szatmari, director of the Offord Centre for Child Studies and holder of the Chedoke Health Chair in Child Psychiatry, is co-principal investigator with Dr. Stephen Scherer, senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and director of McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto. They are studying the genomic basis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a neurological disorder resulting in developmental challenges connected to communication, social understanding and behaviour.

The project, called Autism Spectrum and Associated Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Genomes to Outcomes is geared towards developing new tools to screen genomes and generating cutting-edge technologies to diagnose ASD and other neurological disorders. This work builds on previous research in which the scientists had identified gene copy number differences to be involved in ASD susceptibility. In what will be the largest study of its kind, they will now be using advanced technology to sequence genes from thousands of ASD patients in Ontario.

"We plan to move our gene discoveries from the research bench to the clinics. This will help in early identification which is essential for successful interventions in autism disorders and possibly for new biomedical treatments," says Szatmari.

The government funding is part of Ontario’s $114 million commitment to genomics and gene-related research through the ORF’s GL ² program.

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