HEADLINES Published April17, 2015 By Staff Reporter

Large Study of Genetics in Families with Autism Is Starting

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The New York Stock Exchange was lit with blue lights for World Autism Awareness Day.
(Photo : Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images)

The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland is launching a program to gather genetic material from 5,000 families to help study autism spectrum disorders. The Autism Family Research Bank will give researchers access to detailed genetic, medical, and environmental information on trios consisting of an autistic child under age 26 and his or her two biological parents.

Studies of twins and families have shown that there is a genetic factor in autism spectrum disorders, as well as environmental factors. Autism is a complex condition that probably involves many genetic factors that may interact with environmental factors, especially during pregnancy and very early childhood. Because of this complexity, research on autism requires very large numbers of families to participate in genetic research to find underlying causes.

"Our goal for this new research bank is to create a resource that helps guide the development of effective autism treatments," said Lisa Croen, PhD, director of the Autism Research Program at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. The Autism Research Program received a $4.6 million grant from the Simons Foundation to create the autism research bank over the next three years

"We don't know what causes autism, or why it is increasingly prevalent," said Croen in a statement from Kaiser Permanente. "This study can point us toward the answers."

All data collected by the research bank will be stripped of information that identifies individuals so that patient privacy is maintained. The genetic material comes from families who are members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan.

This study is part of Kaiser Permanente's ongoing research to understand the relationship between genetics and health. The health plan's Division of Research conducts epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of both its plan members and society at large. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has about 9.6 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia.

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