AGREs expansion will focus on recruiting an ethnically diverse group of families, since Caucasians have been over-represented in genetic studies to the point that diagnostic tools are unreliable for minorities, Lajonchere said.
There are few focused genetic studies that directly examine minority populations, she said. The centers expansion will complement efforts by Lajonchere and colleagues at Autism Speaks to foster similar studies in other countries.
Another unique aspect of the grant is a program of pilot studies to evaluate potential environmental factors in autism such as air pollution or disease and diet during pregnancy.
In one such study, Constantinos Sioutas, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, will chart exposure to air pollution in more than 600 California children with autism.
Part of this study is aimed at determining whether chemical species in airborne ultrafine particles are associated with the incidence of autism in children, Sioutas said.
Lajonchere credited Steven Moldin, executive director of USCs Washington, D.C. Office of Research Advancement and co-director of the new center, for helping to create a presence for autism and autism research at USC.
Earlier this year, Moldin organized a three-day meeting at USC of the countrys leading autism researchers to discuss the shared neurobiological roots of autism and other developmental disorders.
Autism is such a complicated disorder, that you need to bring dozens of different research paradigms to understand it. In that way, its the ultimate multidisciplinary disease, said Moldin, who is also research professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School.
If I had to think of one disease that could unite researchers from the most fields at USC, it would definitel
|Contact: Carl Marziali|
University of Southern California