Photo image of child's brain as puzzle pieces to represent autism.

Mt. Sinai Autism Research Fund awards research grants to five CWRU-based pilot projects

The Mt. Sinai Foundation granted seed funding to the International Center for Autism Research and Education (ICARE) at Case Western Reserve University to support early-stage research projects that could lead to a clearer understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attract federal funding.

Through the Mt. Sinai Autism Research Fund, the ICARE steering committee this month awarded five grants for promising ASD projects, ranging in focus from genetics to social sciences.

“We are excited to see the range of projects, from genes to grandparents, that will be studied,” said Lynn Singer, deputy provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “They address important facets of ASD that we believe will lead to additional funding support and influence interventions.”

ASD is named for a group of developmental disorders with a wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of disability. About one in 68 children in the United States are identified as on the autism spectrum, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The award recipients and their research projects are:

  • Drew Adams, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, to develop a new approach for identifying approved drugs or drug-like chemicals that slow the growth of specific stem cells within the developing brain.
  • David Biegel, the Henry L. Zucker Professor of Social Work Practice and professor of psychiatry and sociology, to address the gap in research that examines the impact of adolescents and adults with ASD on their family caregivers—findings that could lead to supportive interventions for families.
  • Anastasia Dimitropoulos, associate professor of psychology, to investigate the relationship of oxytocin, social-cognitive ability and parent-child interactions in preschoolers before and after behavioral interventions.
  • Angela Hein Ciccia, associate professor in the psychological sciences, and Sloane Burgess, an assistant professor in special education and speech-language pathology and audiology at Kent State University, to identify relationships between educational experiences and opportunities in teens with ASD and their outcomes as young adults.
  • Eva Kahana, Distinguished University Professor in sociology, the Pierce T. and Elizabeth D. Robson Professor of the Humanities and director of the university’s Elder Care Research Center, for a pilot study focused on training grandparents of young children with ASD to work more closely with the children’s parents to take a more active role in providing care and social support and advocating for early interventions and educational support for their grandchildren.

The Mt. Sinai Autism Research Fund granted $100,000 in seed funding to ICARE. Awards are open to all Case Western Reserve faculty and post-doctoral fellows, including University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. Projects represent early-stage pilot research that has not yet qualified for significant outside funding.

This article was originally published Nov. 8.