Landmark Autism Genetics Study Launched by Kaiser Permanente

Autism is a complex condition that can involve multiple genetic and environmental etiologies. Creating deep research resources to uncover genetic causes of autism is essential to gaining insight into the disorder.

To that end, the Simons Foundation is supporting the launch of the Kaiser Permanente Autism Family Research Bank, a project to gather genetic material from 5,000 families who have a child with autism. The project will give researchers access to detailed genetic, medical and environmental information from ‘trios’ — an individual with autism under 26 years old, plus both of his or her biological parents.

The grant is intended to create this autism research bank over the next three years, with a focus on families in Northern California.

Because autism can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, advances in understanding the disorder rely on large numbers of families participating in genetic epidemiological studies. Large numbers of participating families will help researchers identify patterns across many individuals that could shed light not only on the causes of autism, but also on potential treatment and prevention strategies.

Information from twin and family studies of autism provides strong evidence for a genetic contribution to autism, and increasing evidence points to a role for environmental factors, particularly during prenatal development and the early post-natal period. With the Autism Family Research Bank, researchers will be able to examine critical factors contributing to autism.

Kaiser Permanente is an integrated managed care consortium, and is the largest private healthcare provider in California.