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MEDICAL RESEARCH
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CHOC Children's nets $3 million grant for autism study

Hospital will use stem cells to examine the disorder's impact on the brain.

By Kristen SchottPublished: August 10, 2009 09:26 AM

CHOC Children's Research Institute in Orange has received a $3 million National Institutes of Health grant to study the effect of autism on the living brain.

The award, which was given through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is the largest federally funded basic science research award granted to the hospital.

The five-year award will help generate, investigate and store neural stem cells derived from skin cells – or fibroblasts – donated by children with autism. The noninvasive program was designed to provide a new means for studying autism's impact on the developing brain. It will also help CHOC to build the first repository of neural cells from living patients and is expected to be a resource for the autism research community.

What's more, the research program boasts a "novel approach" to examining the neurobiology of autism, according to Philip Schwartz Ph.D., the principal investigator on the NIH grant and founding director of the National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource at CHOC, which supports national research in the field of neural stem cells.

“We hope to confirm over the next several years that neural cells generated from these donated fibroblasts can provide a viable experimental model that will yield insights about the origins, diagnosis and treatment of autism,” he says.

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