In addition to their prominent role in certain types of cancer, genes in the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) pathway have been shown in animal models to be important for brain development. Animals with mutations in FGF genes, for instance, exhibit anatomical characteristics reminiscent of those observed in autism. Dr. Vaccarino plans to interrogate these genes for variants associated with autism. Using samples she collected as well as those from AGRE, she also plans to correlate changes in these genes associated with autism with changes in brain size and structures. What this means for people with autism: If FGF genes are confirmed as genetic risk factors, autism research could benefit greatly from a wealth of information already available from a well characterized disease-causing mechanism, which could speed the development of targeted therapeutics.