There are many parent advocates asking for research into gastrointestinal disorders and autism. My own anecdotal observations have been that these same parent advocates are of the belief that no work is ongoing. There are a number of projects ongoing and I’ve tried in the past to make that point (What projects are being funded in autism research? Part 1: vaccines and GI issues). I found 14 projects, nearly $3M in 2010. I found 11 projects for $1.7M in 2009.
I thought it time to revisit this question. I’m using a different data source–the NIH RePORTER database. Because of that these projects are those funded by NIH. Other Federal groups can and do fund autism research. Also private organizations like Autism Speaks
Below are the projects I found for the past few years. There are projects on epidemiology, treatment and biology.
While I think that the funding agencies could do a better job informing the communities about these projects, I sincerely wish that the parent advocacy groups calling for this research would inform their members that it is going on. I am actually very curious as to why they have not done that.
MECHANISMS OF AUTONOMIC BRAINSTEM DEVELOPMENT ($243,000)
Brainstem and autonomic circuitry, though understudied in neurodevelopmental disorders, are implicated in pathophysiology and co-occurring medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disturbances (GID). The goal of this R21 project is to fill this knowledge gap, based on significant preliminary data.
CASEIN KINASE 1 INHIBITORS FOR TREATMENT OF AUTISM $349,610
The overall goal of our program is to (1) identify CK1 [Casein Kinase 1] inhibitors suitable for development as therapeutic agents and (2) to use these agents to investigate the suitability of CK1 inhibitors for addressing specific behavioral features of the complex, multi-symptom disorder known as autism.
The CADDRE SEED studies are multiyear but I haven’t listed all the grants. So the amount is much higher than even the substantial sums noted below.
MD CADDRE: STUDY TO EXPLORE EARLY DEVELOPMENT, SEED PHASE II $91,706
MD CADDRE: STUDY TO EXPLORE EARLY DEVELOPMENT, SEED PHASE II $1,600,000
CALIFORNIA CADDRE-SEED PHASE II $1,100,000
NC CADDRE: STUDY TO EXPLORE EARLY DEVELOPMENT (SEED) PHASE II $1,100,000
COLORADO CADDRE STUDY TO EXPLORE EARLY DEVELOPMENT CADDRE_SEED II $1,100,000
PA-CADDRE: STUDY TO EXPLORE EARLY DEVELOPMENT (SEED) PHASE II $1,100,000
SEED will address hypotheses including: ASD phenotypic variation, including the pattern of clustering of core symptoms, timing of onset, cognitive status, and presence of medical and psychiatric co-morbidities; gastrointestinal features; genetic variation and interaction with environmental risk factors (GxE); infection, immune function, and autoimmunity factors; hormonal factors and maternal reproductive characteristics; and sociodemographic and lifestyle factors.
INVESTIGATING THE GUT MICROBIOME FOR NOVEL THERAPIES AND DIAGNOSTICS FOR AUTISM $558,136 (also funded in 2013 for $558,136)
Based on compelling preliminary evidence, this project aims to explore the potential connection between GI barrier defects and altered behavior in preclinical models of autism. Our long-term goal is to explore possible serum biomarkers for ASD diagnosis, and potentially develop a novel probiotic therapy for at least a subset of children with ASD with GI issues.
TREATMENT OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS AMONG INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS $488,568 (also, $339,591 in 2012, $264,726 in 2011, $578,006 in 2010, $535,209 in 2009, and $465,840 in 2008)
The life-long impairments in communication and social function are often complicated by the presence of medical comorbidities, including epilepsy, (and epileptiform discharges), gastrointestinal disturbances and sleep disorders.
REGULATION OF GASTROINTESTINAL NEUROMUSCULAR FUNCTION BY NIBP/NFKB SIGNALING $320,576 (and 2012 $343,747)
The proposed research is relevant to public health because the discovery of a novel function of NIBP/NFkB signaling in enteric neurons and glial cells is ultimately expected to increase the understanding of the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal diseases. It also shed light on the therapeutics for gastrointestinal inflammation and functional disorders.
ARE AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS ASSOCIATED WITH LEAKY-GUT AT AN EARLY CRITIACAL PER $292,221 (and 2012 $302,820, and 2011 $302,820)
This project seeks to answer fundamental questions about the connection between early development of gastrointestinal (GI) problems (constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
NEUROIMMUNOLOGIC INVESTIGATIONS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD) $264,726
A number of anecdotal reports have linked autism with gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction; most notable among these are reports that autism is associated with “leaky gut” syndrome. Microbial translocation (MT) is the process by which bacteria or microbial byproducts permeate through the wall of the GI Tract (or other abnormally porous mucosal barriers) into the bloodstream. The microbial byproducts would then stimulate the immune system, which could have secondary effects on CNS functioning, or the byproducts could have a direct neurotoxic effect. We conducted assays of MT products in children with autism (from blood and CSF), as well as typically developing children (blood samples only).
Our ongoing phenotyping studies will be used to identify a cohort of children with autism who also have significant gastrointestinal symptoms in order to address this potentially important subgroup of patients.
A PRIMATE MODEL OF GUT, IMMUNE, AND CNS RESPONSE TO CHILDHOOD VACCINES $156,634
By Matt Carey