UCLA Awarded $10M Grant To Study Autism In African Americans

The National Institutes of Health awarded UCLA a grant to study the genetic causes of autism in African-American children.  Areva Martin of the Special Needs Network says “there’s a void” of qualified health care officials to make the diagnosis in communities like South LA.  The study hopes to change that, and aims to recruit at least 600 African-American families who have a child diagnosed with autism.

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Dr. Daniel Geschwind, director of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, was rewarded a five-year, $10 million grant to continue his research on the genetic causes of autism spectrum disorders and to expand his investigations to include the genetics of autism in African Americans.

The new network grant, which will fund collaborative work by Geschwind and experts at other autism centers around the country, is part of the NIH’s Autism Centers of Excellence program, which was launched in 2007 to support coordinated research into the causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and the discovery of new treatments.

Autism spectrum disorders are complex developmental disorders that affect how a person behaves, interacts with others, communicates and learns. According to the Centers for Disease Control, ASD affects approximately one in 88 children in the U.S.

Geschwind’s award will allow him to build on his earlier work identifying genetic variants associated with an increased susceptibility to autism while adding an important new emphasis. The research network he leads — which also includes scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, Washington University and Yale University — aims to recruit at least 600 African American families who have a child diagnosed with an ASD for genetic testing.

While nearly all previous research on the genetics of autism has focused on subjects of European descent rather than those of African or other ancestries, it is critical to study different populations to understand if current genetic findings in ASD can be generalized to a broader population, said Geschwind, a professor of neurology, psychiatry and genetics.

To that end, he will look for gene variants associated with autism in Americans with African ancestry and then test the genetic risk factors identified in European populations to see what role they may play in the disorder in people of African descent.

Because individuals are typically a mix of different ancestries, the research group will use statistical methods that enable them to identify chromosomal markers for different ancestral origins. Genetic data generated by the study will be made available through the Internet to the larger research community.

The work will also include an evaluation of disparities in the diagnosis of autism and in access to care. The scientists will be carrying out this study with UCLA as the hub.

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Anesthesia: More Dangerous Than You Think?

478046573Is anesthesia dangerous? It’s already a question that anyone about to have surgery worries about.

Anesthesia comes in three main types. Local anesthesia, the mildest form, merely numbs a very small area, such as a single tooth. Regional anesthesia desensitizes a large section of someone’s body by injecting drugs into the spine that block nerve signals to the brain. Often a patient getting regional anesthesia also takes a relatively small dose of a powerful sedative drug, such as propofol—not enough to put them under but enough to alter brain activity in a way that makes the person less aware and responsive. Click here for anesthesia side effect prevention

It is very common for it to take a 1-2 days to feel normal and coherent after anesthesia has been administered. But now, experts aren’t sure if this is caused by the surgery, or the anesthesia. A new study performed on mice showed that general anesthesia may negatively affect the brain cells that are responsible for memory and learning.

How To Prevent Anesthesia Side Effects:

  • See If Family Members Have Had Reactions to Anesthesia. Although very rare, some people are genetically susceptible to have dangerous reactions to anesthesia, such as a severe spike in blood pressure. So, it’s always worth asking your family to make sure. If someone in your family has had such a reaction, tell your doctor.
  • Ask Your Doctor About Alternatives. Who knows, there can be alternatives that your doctor can use. And those alternatives may not have been brought up for a number of reasons: 1) More time consuming, not a popular, or simply because no one…