The Cody Center is well on its way to developing the multi-disciplinary, multi-institution approach to Autism research that the National Institute of Health champions in its Research Roadmap that it is using for decision-making on future awards. Early in the Cody Center’s existence, the research staff set a number of goals to initiate and establish a research center with a multidisciplinary, translational (basic to clinical science) program of research focused on Autism and developmental disorders. To begin the process it was proposed that the center would:
- Establish a program of pilot studies to be used as a source of preliminary data for small grant applications
- Establish collaborations with other scientists and institutions where the Cody Center can facilitate projects. The Cody Center's current research partners include Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories and Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Create and maintain a clinical research core that facilitates recruitment and community outreach, structured and consistent diagnostic assessment, the Cody Center database, and statistical support.
Researchers are anticipated to come from a number of disciplines and to be at different stages of their careers. Promoting the goal of creating a successful multi-disciplinary research center that collaborates with other institutions, including Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has required a number of key steps:
- Establish and fund post-doctoral fellowships to support participating researchers
- Create visiting fellowships by senior researchers
- Form an external scientific advisory board
- Sponsor a series of lectures and symposia to bring in local and national scientists programs to involve researchers from varied fields of Autism and developmental disabilities research
- Development of a strategic research plan which concentrates on research into the genetics of Autism, brain plasticity in Autism, mapping of the Autistic brain using MRI, and clinical issues in Autism including psychiatric co-morbidity.
Our Cody Center Fellow, Jasmin Roohi, a MD/PhD student in the Medical School at Stony Brook University, continues her work with Dr. Eli Hatchwell and his team in the Hatchwell Laboratory now housed in the Genomics Core Facility at Stony Brook University. Dr. Hatchwell and his team have developed new technologies that permit the study of an individual’s chromosomes in far greater detail than available previously, detecting very small gains or losses in genetic material, which may be responsible for the behaviors and other characteristics of behavioral phenotypes associated with ASD. Dr. Hatchwell and Dr. David Tegay, a geneticist in the Department of Pediatrics at Stony Brook, are performing detailed studies of 100 children with ASD to determine if behavioral phenotypes are associated with particular functioning identified on diagnostic and behavioral measures.
Drs. Grigori Enikopolov and Natalia Peunova from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory are continuing as Cody Center Visiting Scholars. They are supporting the expansion of the research center while continuing their work (along with Dr. Maletic-Savatic) on the role of nitric oxide as a factor in early brain development in Autism. It is hypothesized that there is impairment in early differentiation of stem cells in the brain, causing aberrant neuronal connectivity, and leading to the rigid behavioral phenotype seen in ASD.
Drs. Gadow and DeVincent continue to analyze data and publish papers on co-morbidity, diagnosis and clinical issues based on retrospective study of the Center’s database of 1500 clinic cases. Grants from the Tourette’s Syndrome Foundation partially supported this work and have included studies of the relationship between tics/movement disorders and associated psychopathology in the presence of an ASD. (See article on recently published papers.)
Drs. Gabis, Pomeroy, Huang (Radiology) and Roche (Radiology) have collaborated in on-going studies of specific central nervous system structures and metabolic profiles that may underlie the pathophysiology of autism utilizing MRI-Spectroscopy.