In the News

Autism Care

Research
Education
Community
Policy

Research

“Future research needs to focus not only on the biological markers of ASD but also include data about functioning, participation, and environmental barriers and facilitators.”

Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo  //  Developmental Pediatrician

 

MacART is laying the foundation for creating a systematic way of linking scientific research on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at McMaster University to clinical practice at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The physical proximity of McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University has a number of characteristics that provides the rare opportunity for collaborative research. Taking advantage of existing university and clinical infrastructure and cross-appointments for clinicians at the university, ASD experts from these organizations are coming together to integrate ASD research into clinical practice.

The focus of MacART members’ research is in the areas of basic science, clinical practice, clinical research, epidemiology and statistical modelling, knowledge translation and exchange, and social science research. By promoting the collaboration of stakeholders across disciplines, MacART is reducing barriers to implementing research in clinical practice, with the goal of advancing autism care through meaningful research.

Learn more about our research HERE.

Education

MacART members are now supervising more than 50 research trainees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels, and are engaged in the mentoring of junior and intermediate faculty members.

In the future, we intend to establish research and clinical training programs for students in McMaster’s undergraduate medical, health sciences, and psychology programs, and for residents and fellows in Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

By training and mentoring emerging researchers and practitioners, we will help to solidify their understanding of and commitment to using basic science to inform their clinical practice, and to use their clinical experience to help formulate research questions. It is our belief that involving these learners in MacART educational activities will promote their use of practices that advance autism care through meaningful research.

Community

“Our scientists are working collaboratively with local clinicians to generate the evidence needed to improve autism services. This symposium is a great example of McMaster’s community engagement efforts.”

Dr. Patrick Deane // President & Vice-Chancellor // McMaster University

 

The community engagement component of MacART strives to work with stakeholders and involve them as partners in every step of the research process.  By doing so, the questions that drive research begin to change. They become more meaningful because they address the real day-to-day challenges faced by children and their families, and the clinicians supporting them.

MacART aims to increase participation and involvement of members of the McMaster and Hamilton communities in the research process. With community members driving the research, new and relevant knowledge can be produced to bridge the research-to-practice gap in ASD and advance autism care through meaningful research.

Policy

“People whose lives are connected to the challenge of autism can share knowledge – from clinicians to educators to parents – and what an amazing opportunity that is. We have a real opportunity to translate challenges into research, and research into practice that will help families living with autism.”

Rob MacIsaac  //  President & CEO // Hamilton Health Sciences

 

Policies should be created using the best available evidence that make positive impacts on the lives of individuals with ASD, along with their families.

MacART’s founder, Stelios Georgiades, serves on both federal and provincial advisory committees about ASD treatment funding.  Along with the wide-ranging expertise of its many ASD experts, MacART is set to act as a highly credible source of evidence-based information to influence and inform public policy about the provision and funding of ASD diagnosis, treatment, and family supports.

MacART will continue to find ways to collaborate with policymakers to both learn more about the policymaking process, and to contribute our expertise and knowledge to inform policymaking, in order to advance autism care through meaningful research.

Interdisciplinary Research Funding Awarded to Dr. Vickie Galea

Congratulations to Dr. Vickie Galea, who is part of a successful application to McMaster’s Interdisciplinary Research Fund (IRF). The IRF supports research projects involving two or more Faculties and is intended to build and strengthen academic, industry and community networks.  This interdisciplinary collaboration is at the core of MacART.

The objective of the proposal to the IRF is to use machine–learning models to finalize the development and validation of an automated, quantitative measurement protocol applied to the immature motor system yielding movement phenotypes. This very novel analysis of infant spontaneous movement will provide a unique window into their early neuromotor development.  The hope is this work will be able to provide early identification of possible neurodevelopmental consequences – such as ASD – in high-risk infants. The sensory/motor phenotypes uncovered by Dr. Galea and her group will be informative to MacART clinician/scientists in the development of targeted age-appropriate interventions for these infants.

MacART at the 2017 CASDA Leadership Summit

On April 4th and 5th, 2017, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) will be holding its annual ASD Leadership Summit.  MacART is proud to say that not only will we be attending the Summit and presenting a poster during the poster session, but we are also providing a ‘Friends of CASDA’ sponsorship. This will be a wonderful opportunity to engage with ASD Leaders from across the country and become an integral part of the national discussion about autism. 

To learn more about CASDA and the Leadership Summit, please visit http://www.casda.ca/#leadershipsummit

Letter to the Editor: Building resilience in kids

In the February 13th edition of the Hamilton Spectator, MacART co-director Dr. Stelios Georgiades had a Letter to the Editor published on the importance of resilience of children and the concept of a 'level playing field'. To read the letter, click here.

Canada's Autism Leaders Call for a Canadian Autism Partnership

The Canadian Autism Partnership Project (CAPP) - a project of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) - recently delivered the business plan for a Canadian Autism Partnership to the Hon. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health.  This business plan was informed by over 5,000 Canadians engaged through nation-wide community roundtables, meetings with government representatives and a national survey.  Dr. Stelios Georgiades, member of CAPP’s expert-led working group and Founder and Co-Director of the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART), believes that Canada is well positioned to be a global catalyst for positive change. 

“While in recent years we did see a rise in Canadians diagnosed with ASD, we are also gaining greater awareness, stronger acceptance and better understanding,” says Georgiades. “Canada is well regarded for its Autism research on a global platform.  Through this initiative we have an opportunity to build on our reputation for international leadership, demonstrating how we come together as a nation to support Canadians on the Autism Spectrum, along with their families and caregivers, and address the complex, systemic barriers that limit their ability to fully participate in Canadian society.”

To see the news release, click here.

To learn more about the Canadian Autism Partnership Project visit www.capproject.ca

An Exciting Year Ahead

The start of a new year is a great time to look back on past accomplishments and make future plans for the year ahead. 2016 was a very successful year for us, and we hope 2017 will be just as exciting. The Hamilton Health Sciences Share site has collected some reflections on the past year from various research institutions, and MacART is included. Click here to read about what we hope to achieve in the year ahead, and also to learn more about the interesting work being done by others at HHS. We are excited to be part of this vibrant and innovative research community!

McMaster scientists discover autism gene slows down brain cell communication

A new study out of McMaster University's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute gives a greater understanding of the root causes of autism.  The findings, which were published in Cell Reports, point to an "on button" on a strand of protein that instructs brain cells to form connections between brain cells during development.  Researchers have isolated the genetic changes that keep this particular protein strand "turned off" in some people who have autism.  

MacART member Dr. Karun Singh says that researchers can now start looking for drugs that will correct these synaptic connections - although identifying such a drug is likely years away. However, this is an important discovery toward the area of genetic guided personalized drug development.

For more information, see the news stories at CBC and McMaster Daily News.

Gift to McMaster President for support of our symposium

MacART administrator extraordinaire Bev DaSilva met with McMaster University President Patrick Deane, offering him a symbolic gift in thanks for his contribution to our stakeholder symposium earlier this year. The gift is a beautiful painting created by a youth with (dis)abilities participating in a community art program at Salvation Army - Lawson Ministries. Huge thanks go out to Bev for all her valuabe work and to Dr. Deane for his continued support of the MacART initiatve! 

MacART website officially launches!

We are pleased to announce the official launch of the new MacART website - a site designed to inform, educate, and raise awareness. This site will be the primary communication tool for MacART, and will play a key role in connecting to our broad and diverse group of stakeholders.  Click here to see the media release

Funding for MacART member Margaret Fahnestock

Congratulations to MacART member Dr. Margaret Fahnestock, Professor in McMaster University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. Dr. Fahnestock has received one year of funding for a project titled “Immunity, sex and genes in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease.” This work will examine the role that sex and changes in the immune system might play in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The proposed project was to test the capacity of potentially toxic immune proteins (called ‘autoantibodies’) to change normal behaviour, the viability of neurons, and the molecular markers of memory in mouse models. This work is looking for new ways to understand, diagnose, and treat this serious brain disorder. 

Project funding for MacART member Karun Singh

Congratulations to MacART member Dr. Karun Singh, professor in McMaster University's Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, scientist at the McMaster Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Research Institute, and holder of the David Braley Chair in Human Stem Cell Research.  Dr. Singh has received two project grants.  One project, “Understanding and treating neurological phenotypes in the 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome,” aims to better understand how risk genes cause abnormal brain development. A strong genetic risk factor is where individuals are missing a piece of chromosome 15 (a microdeletion), and can have autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy or developmental delay. This study will use various models (mouse models, human and mouse brain imaging, cultured human brain cells, genetic sequencing and bioinformatics) to study this microdeletion.  The other project, “Understanding the function of DIXDC1 in normal and abnormal brain development,” is exploring a new molecule named Dix domain containing 1 (DIXDC1) to determine its role in signaling pathways in the brain.  The experiments will provide new information to help understand normal brain connections and how disrupting these pathways can cause ASD-like pathologies.