Thursday, January 23, 2014

Can Your Dog Help Find the Origins of Autism?

With Autism awareness increasing each day, by now, you have probably heard that 1 in 88 children in the United States is diagnosed as having Autism and 1 in every 54 boys. Unfortunately, although the number of children diagnosed on the spectrum is increasing year to year, the amount of funding given to autism research is far less than with other childhood diseases.

Have you heard about the new Canine, Kids and Autism study? The American Humane Association is partnering with Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a non-profit, to research the genetic tendencies of obsessive-compulsive behavior in purebred Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinchers and Jack Russell Terriers.  They hope to apply this knowledge to find the origins of these behaviors in Autistic children and, therefore, be able to provide earlier diagnoses to worried parents and more viable treatments for affected children.
According to the American Humane Association, “Using state-of-the-art technology, TGen scientists will conduct whole genome sequencing to analyze the genomes of these dogs in hopes of pinpointing those genes that might be responsible for atypical behaviors. The study aims to provide both physicians and veterinarians with new insights for earlier diagnoses and innovative therapeutics.”

How You Can Help
TGen’s research is driven by owner-donated samples. (They state that no dogs are housed for research purposes or harmed in any way.)

According to TGen’s website, they “perform the necessary DNA analyses with a simple sample of a dog's saliva or cheek cells, which can easily be collected from home. Blood samples drawn by your veterinarian are also welcome. Any owner of a purebred dog can help advance ongoing research.”
TGen is currently recruiting samples representing a wide variety of disorders – including Autism - across many representative breeds.  If you are an owner of one of the listed breeds (from the DNA kit form), you are invited to participate by submitting a DNA sample. Samples are needed from both healthy “control” dogs as well as dogs affected with the disorders under investigation.

To request a free DNA kit from TGen, click here.
Additionally, federal funding is not available for this study.  The collaborators (American Humane Association, TGen, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School) are seeking private funding for this research.  If you are interested in donating, please contact American Humane Association at 866-242-1877.

If your child has been diagnosed on the spectrum and you are researching fun activities that can help regulate energy and improve motor skills, visit or call 301-231-7138.

1 comment: