Autism Science

New Tools Validate Dish-Grown Neurons for Autism Research

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
September 1, 2013
Abstract: 

Creating neurons from stem cells in a lab dish is a popular approach for studying developmental disorders such as autism. For this, researchers begin with stem cells, either taken from postmortem fetal brains or reprogrammed from other cells. They then chemically coax them into becoming neurons. Two new studies suggest that neurons made from stem cells recapitulate the early stages of development, making them good models for disorders such as autism. However, the neurons never fully reach the maturity of neurons found in adult brains.

Expansion of the Clinical Phenotype Associated with Mutations in Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein

Source: 
Journal of Medical Genetics
Date Published: 
July 23, 2014
Abstract: 

A new study has identified a genetic change in a recently identified autism-associated gene, which may provide further insight into the causes of autism. The study, now published online in the Journal of Medical Genetics, presents findings that likely represent a definitive clinical marker for some patients' developmental disabilities. Researchers identified a genetic change in a newly recognized autism-associated gene, Activity-Dependent Neuroprotective Protein (ADNP), in a girl with developmental delay. This change in the ADNP gene helps explain the cause of developmental delay in this patient. This same genetic change in ADNP was also found in a boy who was diagnosed with autism.

Method Reveals Relationship Between White, Gray Matter

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 27, 2014
Abstract: 

A new technique helps researchers trace the nerve fibers that connect brain regions by revealing how the fibers physically relate to curves and folds on the brain’s surface. The method was described in Medical Image Analysis. The technique examines the relationship between white matter, composed of nerve fibers and support cells, and gray matter, which is largely made of the cell bodies of the neurons the fibers sprout from. Preliminary findings support the theory that autism involves early, hyperconnected and dense brain growth before an abnormal decline, the researchers say.

Large Genetic Deletion Leads to Autism, But Not Always

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 21, 2014
Abstract: 

To characterize people who carry deletions in 16p11.2 and 15q13.3, genetic regions linked to autism, two studies published this summer looked in detail at dozens of people with either deletion. The studies found that deletions in these regions lead to diverse symptoms that only sometimes include autism. The studies were published in the journals Biological Psychiatry and Genetics in Medicine.

Alycia Halladay, PhD, Named Chief Science Officer of the Autism Science Foundation

Date Published: 
August 25, 2014

(August 25, 2014- New York, NY)-- The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced that Dr. Alycia Halladay will join the organization as Chief Science Officer.  The announcement was made by Autism Science Foundation president Alison Singer.

“Dr. Halladay is the perfect person to lead our growing science department” said Singer.  “She has extensive experience in all aspects of autism research, as well as a deep understanding of how to maximize investment in research to provide the best outcomes for families. I could not be more thrilled to have her as part of our executive team.”

Halladay previously served as the Senior Director of Clinical and Environmental Sciences and Interim Head of the Etiology Portfolio at Autism Speaks. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, she was Associate Director for Research at the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR).  While at NAAR and Autism Speaks, she worked across all areas of autism science, directing or managing portfolios relating to risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment of ASDs.  In addition, she led activities relating to family services, communications, awareness, and advocacy.   She has a Ph.D. in psychology and behavioral neuroscience from Rutgers University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers where she later joined as faculty and currently holds an adjunct position. She has participated as a guest editor for a number of journals including Neurotoxicology, Autism Research, Brain Research and Gastroenterology and has served on grant review panels for the CDC and the NJ Governor’s Council for ASD. 

“I am proud and honored to lead the growing science program at the Autism Science Foundation” said Halladay.  “This is an exciting and important time for autism research, and I look forward to working with ASF to continue and also expand its scientific contributions.” 

In its five years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $1.6 million in grants including pre and postdoctoral fellowships, medical school gap year research fellowships, 3-year early career awards, treatment grants, undergraduate summer research funding, research enhancement mini-grants and travel scholarships to enable stakeholders to attend the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

“Autism Science Foundation’s research programs have grown consistently year after year and now need full time leadership to oversee their continued expansion”, said Dr. Matthew State, chair of ASF’s Scientific Advisory Board and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco.  “Alycia is a highly respected autism scientist and has exactly the right experience to lead ASF into the next phase of its growth.”

Dr. Halladay will begin work with the foundation on September 8, 2014.

Founded in 2009, Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org

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Contact Info:  
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation
212-391-3913
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org

Loss of mTOR-Dependent Macroautophagy Causes Autistic-like Synaptic Pruning Deficits

Source: 
Neuron
Date Published: 
August 21, 2014
Abstract: 

As a baby’s brain develops, there is an explosion of synapses, the connections that allow neurons to send and receive signals. But during childhood and adolescence, the brain needs to start pruning those synapses, limiting their number so different brain areas can develop specific functions and are not overloaded with stimuli.

Now a new study suggests that in children with autism, something in the process goes awry, leaving an oversupply of synapses in at least some parts of the brain.

See the full article about this study in the New York Times here

Test Measures Children's Ability to Distinguish Between Faces

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 20, 2014
Abstract: 

People with autism often have trouble recognizing faces, and tend to avoid looking at others' eyes. These deficits may contribute to their difficulty picking up on social cues. An adaptation of an adult face recognition test for children will make it easier to chart the development of children’s abilities, researchers say. The new test is described in a study published in Neuropsychologia.

Age Alters Patterns of Chemical Tags on Sperm DNA

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 18, 2014
Abstract: 

The configuration of methyl tags that modify DNA in sperm change as men get older, according to a study published PLOS Genetics. These alterations may help explain why children of older fathers are at increased risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism. Researchers at the University of Utah collected sperm from 17 men, once in the 1990s and again in 2008. They found that the distribution of methyl tags, a particular kind of DNA modification, shows relatively consistent changes over time in the sperm. However, the study does not necessarily prove that these altered patterns survive past fertilization or influence the risk of disorders such as autism.

Signaling Imbalance Skews Sensory Responses in Autism Mice

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
August 11, 2014
Abstract: 

Mice modeling autism have trouble integrating different kinds of sensory information such as sight, sound and touch. A study published in Neuron reports that an imbalance between signals that calm neurons and those that excite them leads to these sensory problems.

Autism Science Foundation Issues New Request for Scientific Grant Proposals

Abstract: 

ASF is inviting applications for pre- and postdoctoral training awards and medical school gap year research training awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders.

Grants will fund pre- and postdoctoral autism research fellowships
and medical school gap year research fellowships

Informational Conference Call: September 15, 2015, 12:00pm et

(August 11, 2014—New York, NY)--The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced that it had issued a new request for scientific proposals. ASF is inviting applications for pre- and postdoctoral training awards and medical school gap year research training awards from graduate students, medical students and postdoctoral fellows interested in pursuing careers in basic and clinical research relevant to autism spectrum disorders. In the past five years, ASF has funded $1.5 million in pre- and postdoctoral grants.

"We have increased our funding for pre- and postdoctoral fellowships every year for the past five years and expect to expand it again this year,” said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation.  “We are committed to supporting outstanding young investigators who want to dedicate their careers to autism research.”

"We are so grateful to all our donors and volunteers who have come together to support autism research and who make these grants possible" said Karen London, co-founder of ASF.

The proposed training must be scientifically linked to autism. Autism Science Foundation will consider for training purposes all areas of related basic and clinical research including but not limited to: human behavior across the lifespan (language, learning, communication, social function, epilepsy, sleep, repetitive disorders), neurobiology (anatomy, development, neuro-imaging), pharmacology, neuropathology, genetics, genomics, epigenetics, epigenomics, immunology, molecular and cellular mechanisms, studies employing model organisms and systems, and studies of treatment and service delivery. Applications must be received by November 14, 2014. Awards will be announced in March 2015 for projects beginning July-September 2015.

Additional information about this RFA can be found at http://autismsciencefoundation.org/ ApplyForaGrant.html

The Autism Science Foundation will hold an informational conference call regarding the predoctoral, postdoctoral, and medical school fellowship RFA on September 15, 2014 at 12:00pm ET.  The call will outline best practices for completing the application. Participation on the conference call is NOT required for application.  The call in number is: 866-906-9888 and the participant code is 2574613#

ASF also has an open RFA for Research Mini-Grants of up to $5000 to expand the scope, increase the efficiency and improve final product dissemination of active autism research grants.  Applications for mini-grants are due by September 12, 2014. 

Additional information about the Research Mini-Grant RFA can be found at http://autismsciencefoundation.org/apply-research-mini-grant.

The Autism Science Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research. The organization also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.

To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation’s grant programs, and to read about projects funded through this mechanism in prior years, visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org

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Contact Info:  
Meredith Gilmer
Autism Science Foundation
mgilmer@autismsciencefoundation.org