Autism Research Subjects Wanted: $16.5 Million to Study Pregnant Women

Pregnant examined by a doctorby Susan Gosine

Can pregnant women who are also mothers of children with autism help to unravel the real cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)? Top autism researchers believe that pregnant women may hold the key to one of the most debated medical phenomenon of the century: what exactly is the cause of autism?

Autism is an absorption in self-centered subjective mental activity (daydreams, fantasies, delusions, and hallucinations) usually accompanied by marked withdrawal from reality, a mental disorder originating in infancy that is characterized by self-absorption, inability to interact socially, repetitive behavior, and language dysfunction (echolalia).

Researchers believe studying pregnant women and closely monitoring their children until they reach age three could provide answers to genetic and environmental factors that contribute to ASD. It could also help to identify early biological signs of the disorders.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study will incorporate 1200 participants of children with autism. They will complete surveys and consent to giving biological samples when needed. Samples will also be taken from the children who will undergo periodic assessments for autism

The $16.5 million program titled Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), one of the largest research studies to investigate the early causes of ASD, was launched on June 9, in Philadelphia. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences donated $14 million and Autism Speaks, $2.5 million to fund the program. Grantee Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D., a Drexel University Principal Investigator, heads the team of researchers involved in the study.
The researchers will set up a collection for epidemiologic data on continuous ASD behavioral domains during pregnancy and early life, collection and banking of biological samples, and follow-up of the newborn siblings through 36 months of age. They will focus on four specific areas:

    1. Determine whether markers of maternal autoimmune status, measured during pregnancy, at delivery and at six months post-partum, are associated with autism risk
    2. Determine whether in utero exposure to persistent organic pollutants is associated with autism risk
    3. Explore maternal and child epigenetic marks as predictors of ASD risk
    4. Assess whether polymorphisms, which may affect brain development, and in utero agonist exposure are associated with autism risk and explore potential interaction of genotype and exposure

      The collected data will be stored in a bank for future use in ongoing epidemiologic investigations of potential risk factors and risk biomarkers for ASD.

      ASD has become one of the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States of America and affects 1 in every 150 children. The study seeks the cause, means of treatment or possible cures for the disorders. But the program is still in need of participants, without whom it would be impossible to proceed. Women who are less than 20 weeks pregnant, have autistic children and live within the research sites in Pennsylvania, California and Maryland are urged to apply. Participants could become part of a major break through in the possible cause and cure for ASD.

      The coordinating center for the program is Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia. Local research sites include Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of California at Davis M.I.N.D Institute, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Kennedy Krieger Institute and the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, California.

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      1. Posted September 1, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        I was a little shocked to read that 1 out of every 150 children are diagnosed with autism. With a population of 306 million people in america 2,040,102 or 2 million are autistic, wow this is high!

      2. Bryanne Weaver
        Posted September 4, 2009 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        As an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, I have had to endure much teasing, cruelty, misunderstanding and discrimination at the hands of people who didn’t understand or want to understand me. So, I am glad that there are measures being taken to find the root cause of autism. I also sympathize with the parents out there who are struggling to understand and find resources for their kids. It’s really tough.

        However, I feel the given definition of autism in this article is a little off. I personally am not involved in self-centered subjective activity. I personally am acutely aware of others at all times and try to do what’s best for other people, at times putting my own needs aside. Kids with autism typically have over-developed senses, such as severe sensitivites to taste, smell, or sound. I can relate to this. When the world is so noisy, or so bright, or when everything’s so overwhelming, it’s hard to stay in reality. I think if the focus could be on making things a little more quiet and less overwhelming, a lot of autistic kids wouldn’t need to retreat to their own world.

      3. Posted September 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        How are they getting these women to study? I have a son with autism and I’m 8 weeks pregnant. I’d gladly be a part of it, but this mom won’t be using any vaccines on the new one this time…

      4. Posted September 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


        Acutally the number that will be released shortly is 1 in 100 and 1 in 38 boys.

        And it is not the total population, just children. Which is why this study is being done. Because signs point to this being and environmental epidemic and what is diagnosed with “autism” as a toxic injury.

      5. Posted September 11, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        I have an Autistic son as well and am currently 14wks preggo. I am participating in the study because answers need to be found, something needs to be done!

        And as Crystal commented above, my baby will NOT be vaccinated either!

      6. Posted September 1, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

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