WRITER: DAN MCMILLAN
CONTACT: DEBRA VENZKE
UI COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
Release: Oct. 9, 2002
UI to participate in new autism research center
Researchers in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the UI
Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine will collaborate in one of
the first federal research centers established to examine the biomedical and
behavioral aspects of autism.
The UI investigators, led by Tom Wassink, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry;
Veronica Vieland, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics, psychiatry and genetics;
and Val Sheffield, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and a Howard Hughes
Medical Institute associate investigator, will collaborate with researchers
at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The five-year research project
funded by the National Institutes of Health focuses on gene-brain behavior
relationships in autism. The focus of the UI team is autism disease-gene discovery.
Autism is a brain disorder that affects social, communicative and behavioral
functioning from an early age. It is a lifelong condition for which there
currently is no cure. Although it is known that genetics and brain dysfunction
are involved in autism, exact causes have yet to be identified.
"This award is a terrific endorsement of the accomplishments to date
of the UNC/UI team, who've been working together on autism genetics for several
years," said Vieland, who also directs the UI Center for Statistical
Genetics Research and leads the Division of Statistical Genetics in the Department
of Biostatistics. "The new center will give us an opportunity to tie
our work in with complementary work on brain and behavior being done at the
UNC and other sites. We hope the result will be accelerated progress towards
clinical insights into this devastating disorder."
The UNC center is led by Joseph Piven, M.D., and James Bodfish, Ph.D. Also
participating on the UI team is Ralph Adolphs, Ph.D., assistant professor
of neurology. In addition to the UI, other collaborating sites are the Institute
of Psychiatry at King's College and Duke University. The research is funded
as part of the NIH's STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment)