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April 29, 2016

CHOP joining country's largest autism study

Researchers hope to collaborate in effort to identify unknown

Research Autism
CHOP Exterior JVinocur/Wikimedia Commons

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

With Autism Awareness Month coming to an end, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Center for Autism Research (CAR) has announced it is joining what's being called the largest autism study in the history of the United States.

CAR said Friday it will be teaming up with 20 other medical institutions to try and overcome one of the most complicated aspects of autism research in a new initiative dubbed SPARK.

Autism spectrum disorder has a strong genetic component, researchers say, but while 50 genes that definitely play a role in autism have already been identified, scientists estimate about 300 or more are involved.

By joining forces with researchers across the country, CHOP will aid in compiling large sample sizes to chip away at the unknown.

"Team science and collaboration is the only viable path forward for rapidly making progress, and SPARK provides us with just such an opportunity," said Dr. Robert T. Schultz, who is leading CHOP's research site in the study.

The study's organizers are encouraging members of the autism community to connect with them and help create a large pool of research, to be widely accessible to participating researchers, allowing them to study participants' DNA for specific scientific questions.

Those interested in participating in the study can visit or call 267-426-4971.

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