Taking Aim at Autism from Many Angles

Finding a diagnostic tool and an effective treatment for autism are the end goals for Dr. Dorota Crawford, whether she is studying genetic markers for autism or examining how the environment in which a baby develops in utero may affect development of brain cells, reported Hospital News in its October 2010 issue.

Crawford, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health at York University, aims to change this. She is using her unique dual expertise in genetics and neuroscience research to study how genes that have been associated with autism affect brain cell development, and how environmental factors – for example, drugs or infections – may cause molecular changes that interfere with communication between neuronal cells in the developing brain. Crawford is confident that breakthroughs in earlier diagnosis and treatment of the disorder will come from a multidisciplinary approach.

Crawford’s lab at York University’s Keele campus is one of very few autism labs in the world that integrates genetics with molecular and cellular neuroscience approaches to study the link between biological and environmental causes of autism. She is a member of the York University  interdisciplinary Autism Alliance Research Group which is affiliated with the York University Psychology Clinic, a provider of autism assessment services. By working together, researchers and clinicians in the Autism Alliance are seeking to understand the whole individual, working from the level of genes to cells to behaviour and the family.

Adapted from Y-file – October 6. 2010

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