Autism Center of Excellence Network Grant: Newly Established Collaboration of LEND Programs and Tuberous Sclerosis Clinics

Program: TSC Autism Center of Excellence Research Network (TACERN)

November 14, 2012

Chelsea Slater, MEdA consortium of five pediatric hospitals that are geographically-distributed throughout the US have been awarded a five-year project, funded by the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The project, TSC Autism Center of Excellence Research Network (TACERN), is aimed at elucidating biomarkers of autism in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. The five Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities, or LEND, programs affiliated with these hospitals will be collaborating as part of the training component of the project.

The longitudinal project will study infants with TSC and includes TSC clinics and LEND programs at: Boston Children's Hospital (Principal Investigator Mustafa Sahin and LEND Boston Director David Helm), Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (Principal Investigator Darcy Krueger and CCHMC LEND Director Karen Edwards), University of Alabama at Birmingham (Principal Investigator Martina Bebin and UAB-LEND Director Fred Biasini), University of Texas at Houston (Principal Investigator Hope Northrup and LoneStar LEND Director Pauline Filipek)  and University of California at Los Angeles (Principal Investigator Joyce Wu and CA-LEND Director Marian Williams).

Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder in which approximately 50% of individuals are also affected with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). State of the art imaging with 3Tesla MRI scanners, advanced EEG technology, validated neurodevelopmental assessment tools, genetic analysis, and standardized clinical measures starting in infancy through age 36 months will be utilized.

A major goal of the collaboration with the LEND programs is to elevate awareness and clinical expertise of ASD in TSC to 1) improve ASD diagnosis and treatment in TSC and 2) facilitate combined training in ASD and TSC so as to engage ASD researchers in educational and research activities in TSC and vice-versa. By participating in the research project and TSC clinics, LEND fellows will receive interdisciplinary research training and education expertise in ASD and TSC. The ultimate goal of the longitudinal study is to increase understanding of brain connectivity and its relationship to ASD in TSC, paving the way for new interventions for this and related causes of autism.