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Autism Research Efforts Skyrocket


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With some $1.5 billion in investment, a new federal report finds that the number of autism research studies has doubled.

More than 11,000 studies on autism have been published since 2009, twice the number issued in the preceding five years, the report released this week by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee found.

Findings from the research are shedding light on everything from the best treatment approaches to the biology behind autism, the IACC indicated.

“The state of the science has dramatically changed in the ASD field over the last five years,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the IACC, a federal advisory committee comprised of government officials and members of the autism community.

The report issued this week serves as an update to the IACC’s strategic plan, which is intended to outline priorities for federal research on the developmental disorder.

Despite the increase in studies looking at autism, the IACC indicated that much work remains, particularly as it relates to understanding the needs of adults, those on the more severe end of the spectrum, individuals with co-occurring conditions and people in traditionally underserved communities.

An investigation last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggested that federal spending on autism research may not stretch as far as it could. Most studies conducted on the government’s dime are “potentially duplicative,” the GAO found, adding that oversight and coordination between federal agencies is often lacking.

“Relative to many other areas of biomedical research, ASD science is still a young field,” the IACC said in its report. “While the past five years have seen rapid growth and substantial scientific progress, the committee recognizes the large gap that still remains between advances made in research settings and practical benefits that are ready to be delivered to individuals and families living with ASD today.”

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Whitney says:

    I been saying it is duplicative and with no coordination. It is one thing to study science but it must be coordinated and can overlap but be not duplicated. I am saying science is important but the findings should be implemented to make life better for all. You have research now it seems to spinning it wheels. Going off in directions that have no foundation or little direction. It is like the thing for cure it does not help people in the now but should research should be stop. No. It should be more discreation about how research being conducted, fund, and how things should be pursued. Curing should not be only thing in researched. Research should be mean to an end how policies are done in areas of education, training,, or treatments of ASD.

  2. Whitney says:

    It is not about research it is about quality of research. So far I had seen is that duplication and little oversight for quality of research. Research is poorly done. Some of it duplicated and the results are the same. Instead of implementing some of the results that would benefited both society and people with ASD quality of life. If studies says education and training will be beneficial to ASD in tech fields for example. What is done more research that stated the same result is done. No policies are made to help family and people with autism are made for making them productive citizens. It is not just research needed for cures and yes this research important but giving just false hope for quick cures is not. Or hopes that unproven techniques and yes some are valid but should accredited for working. Others are not and they are form of torture for the patient. The FDA is there protect the people and if a person with autism is being tortured by unproven techniques for well meaning parents who seek quick cures. Having that child die because of this cure or reverse to a worse state because of that. It is a better side on the air of caution.

  3. Susanne Bergstrom says:

    Who trusts the government enough to believe the forthcoming ‘studies’. How connected are these studies to the drug industries? There are already a number of parent-researched ways of coping and treating autism
    but they never seem to hit the mainstream.

  4. Dadvocate says:

    Some duplication (and replication) is absolutely necessary to confirm results. I recall hearing on the IACC webcast that a number of the members made this point during their discussion of the GAO audit. I also recall someone saying that the GAO auditors may not have been clear on the need for duplication of results and that the GAO wasn’t drilling down to the specifics of individual studies.. Instead, they may have focused on the broad category of study and lumped everything together in that category as potentially duplicative.

    With an unbelievably small 0.55% of the total NIH budget earmarked for ASD research, a ton more funding needs to happen for the science to happen. The Combating Autism Act, is THE critical research (not supports) oriented piece of legislation designed specifically to guide this science. It needs prompt and meddlesome free reauthorization. Scientific knowledge gained as a result of this legislation, which is guided by professional (not armchair) researchers, clinicians, and ethicists, is the path to better, more accurate detection, more useful and individualized therapies and interventions, better understanding of risk factors, and perhaps someday for those who want one, a cure.

  5. Whitney says:

    Susanne , It has to be the government most individuals do not have the resources to commit to the research. I rather side on caution some of the treatments can give a placebo effect. Others are not some treatments can potentially kill a person with out proper controls and policies in place. My complaint is this reflects yours as well. The parent based research is valid and should be introduced to the mainstream with a qualified person to give the treatment. As individuals we do not have resources to maintain integrity of the research.

    The research being done on Video games is good example. We do not know the baseline effects of video games on the NT how can we assume the effects on ASD. Teenagers are prone to oppositional behavior in NT but also in ASD. How is this behavior different between regular and normal oppositional behavior in ASD teenager? How is the oppositional behavior not normal for child that age? What behavior symptoms were given. Teenager displays no oppositional behavior towards would be abnormal and more red flag. Another problem is the range of ages in children in research you have a group 300 boys ranging 8 to 18 the study group is too small. You need a least 16-18 year olds at 300 to make adequate synopsis of behavior.

    Research duplication is needed but not on established results of a previous piece. Also so many research groups are doing research on the same topic does not help.

    Ethics are needed no one wants Dr. Frankenstein to experiment on kids with or without ASD. Last time I check death is permanent thing unless it is comic books or horror movies. Unless you want to tell a grieving parent of ASD that the child death is the benefit of science to finding a cure. Scientist need the ethic guidelines to treat people ASD as human beings but not guinea pigs. If we lose sight that the people are human beings and should treated with respect we become no better than Dr. Frankenstein. What makes us better the Nazi regime where they did carry inhumane experiments on the populations and did their own forms eugenics.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I am happy to see that the Gov. Accountability Office is recognizing the need for oversight in ASD research. I believe that presently studies aimed toward the immediate needs of AS persons is lacking while millions are wasted on finding a “cure”. For example, having a fenced in yard for AS children to play in safely and a trained service dogs would change the lives of many AS families. Instead of providing such cost effective things for differently-abled children, the US Federal Government paid out $317 Billion last year alone which mostly went toward ineffective and IMO sometimes cruel conditioning treatments (ASD). Of course this is simply my opinion. ASD can sometimes help if done properly by caring and gentle therapists.

  7. autismparent says:

    If the researchers focus on neuroimmune dysfunction particularly mitochondrial and microglial dysfunction, toxins in the environment and how that links to autism that will be money well spent. Last thing we need is more eye gazing studies. There’s been plenty of good science to draw from. Work by Dr. Richard Frye on mitochondrial dysfunction and autism is outstanding. Also the work of Dr. Mario Capecchi on mentall illness and microglial dysfunction. Also Dr. Carlos Pardo on microglia and inflammation in the autistic brain. Scientists are honing in, let keep the research focused and on track and don’t blow it!!!

  8. autismmom says:

    Researchers need to focus on those areas were greatest insight has been gained in understanding the underlying cases of autism which is really a neuroimmune dysfunction. Further research is needed on the link between mitochondrial dysfunction, microglial dysfunction, environmental toxins and autism. As Whitney said there has been far too much duplication in autism research. There are certain researchers who have made great contributions to understanding autism including Dr. Richard Frye who has done groundbreaking work on mitochondrial dysfunction and autism, Dr. Mario Capecchi who researches mental illness and microglial dysfunction and Dr. Carlos Pardo who researchers brain inflammation, microgila and autism. The research money should be focused. We dont need more money wasted on eye gazing studies, we do need a better understanding of the root causes of autism- mitochondrial and microgial dysfunction as the result of toxic exposure. Perhaps once we have a better understanding of the underlying causes, scientists can develop ways to treat so our kids can function better.

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