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Finding The Gene For Autism

Source: Persian Heritage Monthly

For twenty months Dr. Roksana Sasanfar has been researching as a post-graduate fellow at the Department of Psychiatry and the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. The subject of the project is autism and autism spectrum disorder. Her research here comes after five years of successful pioneering efforts to screen autism in Iran. After earning a medical degree from Azad University School of Medicine in Tehran, she began conducting research on the genetics of deafness and then became interested in autism. Her first obstacle was in educating her colleagues on autism in order for the children to be properly diagnosed. At that time children with autism were not allowed to attend schools of special needs because of the professional lack of awareness of the disease. Autism is almost harder for people to accept because in most of the cases there are no abnormal physical deformities or abnormalities. Because of this, often the parent, instead of being the child's support, actually suffers from their own anxiety and depression.

To help her colleagues, she translated the latest diagnostic tools into Persian and then instituted national level screening. Today over 300,000 preschool children have access to the screening process. For her efforts she was awarded a National Medal for Research from the National Institute for Special Education in Iran. Once that was in place she turned her efforts to discovering the gene for autism. She was able to collect 300 blood samples from 100 children. The results indicated that a more sophisticated laboratory and statistical skills was needed to expand the research. She applied to work with Dr. Susan L. Santangelo of Harvard Medical School and subsequently got the right to work as a fellow at Mass General. She is convinced that genes influencing synaptic plasticity are highly likely to be involved in risks for autism spectrum disorders. She is pursuing this theory under the mentorship of Dr. Santangelo and Dr. Vijaya Ramesh. The analysis of the genetic repository stands to benefit the cause of autism research and ultimately the children and their families throughout the world.

Dr. Sasanfar will be featured at a lecture presented by The Iranian American Society on August 10th from 4-7PM at the Armenian Club in Little Neck, NY.

For additional information call: (516)-569-3841

... Payvand News - 08/01/08 ... --

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