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Autism Science Foundation launches Autism Sisters Project

New initiative to advance research into autism’s protective female effect; invites participation by sisters of those who have autism
October 14, 2015

The Autism Science Foundation has launched the Autism Sisters Project, a new initiative to advance research into the autism’s “female protective effect.” The program invites unaffected sisters of boys and men with autism to participate in the research effort.

Science has yet to explain why autism is four to five times more common among boys and men than girls and women. But research suggests the presence of one or more unknown protective factors in females.

The goal of Autism Sisters Project is to build a large database of information that researchers can use to explore this phenomenon and discover how it might be harnessed to help people with autism of both sexes.

“We are learning more about how autism affects males and females differently, as well as the underlying etiological factors behind these differences,” explains Alycia Halladay, chief science officer of the Autism Science Foundation. “This is an exciting and promising opportunity to leverage that understanding for deeper research into potential factors that could have a significant impact on the lives of many people with autism.”

The Autism Sisters Project will focus on three areas:

* Gathering behavioral and genetic information on unaffected sisters and their families from existing autism databases;

* New funding to support genetic sequencing and behavioral and medical assessments of unaffected sisters in families already enrolled in autism research;

* Recruitment of new families with at least one member affected by autism and an unaffected sister. The study will take place at New York City’s Seaver Autism Center. The center is part of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“The female protective effect is a very important area of investigation in the autism research community,” says Seaver Autism Center Director Joseph Buxbaum. “This is an enormously exciting opportunity for sisters of individuals with autism to take a proactive role in advancing important research.”

To participate in the Autism Sisters Project at the Seaver Autism Center, call 212-241-0961 or email

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