May 01, 2010
By Joanna Frketich
McMaster researchers are literally jumping for joy after getting $8.9 million toward their quest to find the genes involved in autism.
"I was jumping up and down and clapping," said Dr. Peter Szatmari, director of the Offord Centre for Child Studies and co-principal investigator of the study. "I'm very excited and very pleased."
Szatmari has already found more than 10 genes involved in autism with his research partner, Dr. Stephen Scherer from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
They think there are more than 100 genes involved. They want to find and sequence them to improve diagnosis and treatment. The grant from Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation will allow that six-year partnership and work to continue for another five years.
"We're going to sequence the genes we think are involved so we can ... precisely understand what is going wrong," Szatmari said.
To do that, he and Scherer are involving all of Ontario's medical schools to study 5,000 patients with autism and other disorders thought to be related, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and developmental delays. They will use advanced technology to sequence each patient's genes.
"We think people with autism share genes with these other disorders," Szatmari said. "We're going to try to find some."
It's a piece of the puzzle they hope will lead to biomedical treatments for autism.