Saturday, November 25, 2017 @ 9am
Autism has a strong genetic component. To date, approximately 50 genes have been identified that almost certainly play a role in autism, and researchers estimate that at least an additional 300 are involved. But to identify all the genes at play, many more genetic samples are needed from those with autism and their immediate families.
That’s where SPARK comes in. SPARK is an online scientific study and community of individuals with autism and their families. Launched just a year ago, Maine Behavioral Healthcare and the Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders in South Portland has partnered with SPARK to enroll over 50,000 people.
SPARK’s goals are twofold: first, to identify the hundreds of autism genes at play and to link them to the biological mechanisms that they govern, as well as to any environmental factors to which participants with autism may have been exposed. Researchers can better understand the condition’s causes by linking specific identified genes to the diverse array of symptoms, skills and challenges of those affected. Second, it seeks to connect these individuals and families to research opportunities that advance the understanding of autism.