As part of an effort to accelerate the pace of research directed at improving the physical health and wellbeing of children and adolescents with ASD, four research subcontracts have been awarded under the initiative, the Autism
Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P ) Pilot Projects on Treatment Research Affecting Autism. Funds for these research projects were made available as part of a $12 million AIR-P grant awarded to the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) Clinical Coordinating Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in September, 2008, by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau under the Combating Autism Act.
This past May, the ATN announced its first AIR-P Network Request for Applications (RFA). This announcement invited research proposals in several specific ASD health-related areas including gastroenterology, neurology, metabolics, psychopharmacology, speech pathology and pain. The initiative has two aims: 1) facilitating collaborations across existing ATN centers for developing innovative research ideas; and 2) carrying out pilot studies to deliver preliminary findings, which can later be leveraged to seek additional funding opportunities for research expanding on the pilot findings. Two particular levels of research were targeted: Level 1, supporting research by junior-level investigators for short-term (1 year) pilot studies; and Level 2, supporting both junior- and senior-level investigators for pilot studies of up to 2 years.
Applicants submitted 16 proposals addressing a variety of medical issues associated with ASD: sleep disturbance and associated conditions; pain processing; early identification of ASD; bone mineral density; behavior, training and cognitive development; nutritional deficiencies; genetics; metabolism; neurology; and gastrointestinal conditions.
In late August, funding was approved for two Level 1 and two Level 2 proposals which are expected to get underway over the next few months:
Bone Mineral Density in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which will be led by Ann Neumeyer, M.D. – Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)/LADDERS; collaborating sites include Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Defining the Relation of Sleep Disturbance in Autism Spectrum Disorder to Psychiatric and Behavioral Comorbidities, under the leadership of Suzanne Goldman, Ph.D. – Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Prevalence of Creatine Deficiency Syndromes and Genetic Variability in Creatine Metabolism in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder – A Pilot Study, under the leadership of Andreas Schulze, M.D., Ph.D. – University of Toronto; collaborating sites include MGH/LADDERS and the University of Colorado.
Markers of Iron Status and Metabolism in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which will be led by Ann Reynolds, M.D. – University of Colorado. This collaborative effort includes the University of Rochester, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and the University of Pittsburgh.
The ATN expects to fund an additional Level 2 study in the near future. Look for announcements on the AIR-P webpage at www.autismspeaks.org/airp, where you will also be able to track the progress of our other research initiatives.