In the News

Autism Care



“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.


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.


“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.


“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.

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.

MacART to Collaborate with Major Autism Research Teams in Israel

MacART is in the process of planning collaborations with two major ASD research teams in Israel – the Autism Center at Hebrew University and Hadassah Medical Center, and the Weinberg Child Development Center and Tel Aviv University. Research teams from the two countries will work collaboratively on a series of training programs and research studies – from clinical interventions to biomedical discoveries – aiming to enhance our understanding of the disorder and advance care for children, youth, and families affected by ASD. These international collaborations are being formalized by McMaster’s Peter Mascher, Associate Vice-President, International Affairs who is in Israel for the Ontario Business Mission lead by Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Excerpted from McMaster to Learn from Israel’s “Start-Up” Expertise, Erica Balch, McMaster Daily News

Colours of autism spectrum described by CanChild researchers

In a paper published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, lead author Dr. Briano Di Rezze described a new classification system for social communication abilities in children with ASD. Dr. Di Rezze, a scientist with CanChild and an assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at McMaster’s School of Rehabilitation Science, noted that, “This is not a test, but more like describing the colours of a rainbow,” focusing on what the child can do instead of what they can’t do.  With funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the system was created by a team of senior researchers and clinicians, led by CanChild, and tested by parents and professionals across the country.

Excerpted from McMaster Daily News.​

MacART and NIMH Pediatrics and Developmental Neurosciences Branch to Collaborate

In May 2016, the McMaster Autism Research Team ( made its debut on the international research stage. During a visit to the US National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Stelios Georgiades, MacART Founder and Co-Director, laid the groundwork for a collaboration between MacART and the NIMH Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch. The two teams will join forces on research examining the developmental trajectories of children and youth with ASD. NIMH experts will also advise MacART on the development and implementation of an integrated model of research and clinical practice to be embedded within the Autism Services Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The measure of a life – the Pathways Study

When ideas for a new study were being proposed, MacART member Dr. Peter Szatmari said that, “I thought it would be a study on what’s the most effective form of early intervention, or what’s the best treatment.” Instead, the most frequently posed question was “what determines how well a person with autism will function in life?”

To address this issue, Szatmari and his team launched the Pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorders study with the goal of describing changes in children’s skills, abilities, and ASD symptoms over time.  The study was also designed to find out what factors, like intelligence, language skills, or gender, influence how each child grows and develops.

Excerpted from The measure of a life by Nicholette Zeliad, Spectrum.