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Families with one Autistic Child Sought for UCLA Study

Date: 05/12/2008
Contact: Mark Wheeler ()
Phone: 310-794-2265

The Simons Simplex Collection is a national effort to identify the genetic components of autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex disorder with a wide range of symptoms that strikes one in 150 American children as early as age 2 or 3. It can rob a child of his or her ability to communicate and socialize, and often leads to disruptive behavior.

Now UCLA is joining 10 other institutions around the country to join in a focused effort to find the cause of autism. The UCLA study is led by Dr. Daniel Geschwind, a professor of neurology and the director of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and is part of an effort by the Simons Foundation, a New York-based philanthropic organization.

The initiative, called the Simons Simplex Collection, is a more nuanced effort to find a cure for this disorder. Where earlier efforts studied families that had more than one child with ASD, this effort is more narrowly focused.

"It is becoming clear that some of the genetic factors that cause autism in families with two or more affected kids are distinct from the genetic causes of autism in those with only one affected child and other unaffected siblings," said Geschwind. "This study is an effort to isolate the genetic factors involved in families with just one affected child."

The research study has four components:
 1. A child with ASD will have a behavioral assessment;
 2. All family members will donate blood, in order to provide a DNA sample that will be kept confidential;
 3. Parents will be interviewed regarding all of their children's development;
 4. Monetary reimbursement will be provided at the conclusion of the family's participation.

Families will be contacted for follow-up questions as researchers pursue promising findings.

The goal is to compare the DNA of the autistic child with the DNA from the child's siblings and parents. By doing that, says Geschwind, and by comparing the DNA from the approximately 2,000 families from the study, it's hoped that a particular genetic component can be isolated.

UCLA is seeking at least 200 families over the next two years that meet the following criteria:
 One child with ASD, between the ages of 4 and 17;
 One or more siblings without ASD, age four and older;
 Both biological parents who are willing to participate.

Families interested in participating in the UCLA portion of the study, or for more information, should contact Diana P. Huizar, study coordinator, UCLA-Simons Simplex Study, 310-825-8359; dhuizar@mednet.ucla.edu

The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior is an interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. In addition to conducting fundamental research, the institute faculty seeks to develop effective treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders, improve access to mental health services, and shape national health policy regarding neuropsychiatric disorders.


Media Contact: Mark Wheeler, 310-794-2265; mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu