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Canine Research Could Lead To Earlier Diagnosis And Treatments For Autistic Kids

Every year, one out of every 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with some form of autism, with these numbers steadily rising over the last decade.

Although the instances of children on the autism spectrum are increasing year to year, the amount of funding given to autism research is far lower than with other childhood diseases, and this has led to fewer researchers examining the autistic spectrum.

Undeterred, however, a new groundbreaking study looking at autistic tendencies present in certain breeds of dogs has been announced.

The American Humane Association, the country’s only charity that works for the protection of both children and animals, has announced a study partnership with the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), which will seek to uncover the genetic basis of obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs.

The research findings from this ‘Canines, Kids and Autism’ study could also lead to clues about the origins of such behavior in children – especially the growing number of those with autism.

The study will look first at the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder commonly found in three types of purebred dogs: Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher and Jack Russell Terrier. Using state-of-the-art technology, TGen scientists will conduct whole genome sequencing to analyze the genomes of these dogs, aiming to pinpoint those genes that might be responsible for atypical behaviours. The study aims to provide both physicians and veterinarians with new insights for earlier diagnoses and innovative therapeutics.

Joining American Humane Association and TGen are collaborators from the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

A core part of American Humane Association’s 137-year-old mission is the study of the human-animal bond. The Canines, Kids and Autism study is the organization’s second study involving dogs and children. The association is also involved in a full clinical trial of the Canines and Childhood Cancer study in partnership with Zoetis, which is investigating the biological and psychosocial effects of therapy dogs on pediatric cancer patients.

“Dogs are such a special part of our lives, and it is incredible what we are continuing to learn about how our species is linked with theirs,” said Dr Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO. “This unique study will hopefully shed more light on understanding more about autism.”

 

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