Groundbreaking autism study by Kaiser Permanente

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley families with autistic children could benefit for years to come from a groundbreaking study by Kaiser Permanente. Researchers hope the study will help them find improved treatment options and eventually, the cause of autism.

Frank Carrillo's playtime with his sons is also learning time. 7-year-old Noah and 4-year-old Ethan are both autistic and every interaction with family, friends and classmates helps their development. Like so many other parents of autistic children, Frank and Autumn wonder what caused autism in both their sons.

Frank said, "Is it genetics or environmental? There's just so much information out there... yeah, it would be nice to know."

The Carrillo's want to be part of finding the answer. As Kaiser Permanente members, the family plans to participate in a sweeping study on autism. Beginning in July, families with an autistic child will be recruited across Kaiser's membership region, including the Valley to create a research bank of genetic, medical and environmental information.

The research will involve what are called trios: an autistic child and their biological mother and father to create the large genetic database. Even though the study will involve only Kaiser members, the research will be available worldwide, to hopefully one day, find the cause of autism.

Autumn added, "That's the key, being able to with this study: being able to recognize it and catch it earlier."

Dr. Casey Gray is Noah and Ethan's pediatrician at the Fresno Kaiser facility in North Fresno. He says DNA samples from the 5,000 "trios" in the research group will create a unique database to investigate if autism is at least partly, inherited.

The idea is that you look at what's passed on from dad what's passed on from mom and see if any of those factors can be passed onto the children," explained Dr. Casey Gray. "And if so, can we link it either to the father's side, the mother's side, which portion of their genetic makeup does it come from."

The families in the study will be "de-identified" so their names and personal information will be protected. Environmental factors will also be included in the research. Until a cause of autism is found, pediatricians like Dr. Gray continue to try to detect the disorder as early as possible, to start early treatment. Noah and Ethan were diagnosed while they were toddlers and are thriving in school and in autism therapy -- expressing themselves in ways that bring joy to their family, every day.

Kaiser's autism research program received a nearly $5,000,000 grant from the Simons Foundation to create the autism data bank over the next three years. Kaiser says the study will be available to "qualified researchers" worldwide, for years to come.



Recruitment starts in July. Open to only Kaiser members with an autistic child or children.
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