News Shorts: Seeking autism clues in siblings
Seeking autism clues in siblings
Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, researcher with the Department of Pediatrics, is working with scientists from across North America to find out whether there are genetic markers for autism as a way of giving families with autism in an older child a more accurate estimate of what a younger sibling’s risk is.
“If there were a way of using genetic biomarkers to identify infants at high risk before the more overt manifestations of autism were obvious, it would really open the door to provide support and intervention at earlier stages of development, said Zwaigenbaum, lead researcher of the two-year study.
The research initiative is funded by the Simons Foundation and by Autism Speaks. The $1.3 million will go towards creating a biorepository, a collection of DNA samples and other biological specimens.
Golden Bears hockey reorganizes
The Golden Bears hockey program has reorganized its structure so the majority of the off-ice business will be handled by a general manager.
“In order for us to maintain our position at the top of CIS hockey, we’ve got to have significant revenue streams. That’s the missing piece for this program right now,” said Ian Reade, director of Athletics and architect behind the new structure. “We believe this new model will make the Golden Bears extremely attractive and competitive on the recruiting front.”
Stan Marple, who served as head coach of the Golden Bears in 2011-12, has been named the first general manager. Besides looking for a new head coach. Marple’s duties will include revenue generation, with an eye toward arena improvements, as well as alumni affairs, marketing and promotion.
Preventing problems after cancer
Pediatrics researcher Lesley Mitchell will lead an Edmonton team of childhood cancer researchers that includes pediatric oncologist Maria Spavor and pediatric nephrologist Maury Pinsk as part of a national effort to prevent long-term complications from childhood cancer treatment.
The researchers will initially test blood samples of people who survived childhood cancer to see which genetic biomarkers made the survivors more susceptible to developing common post-cancer complications, such as blood clots, hearing loss, kidney failure or bone-marrow transplant rejection.
The Edmonton arm of the study has been tasked with zeroing in on blood clots. In five years, researchers will start a pilot study in which children deemed to be at risk of these complications will be given medications to prevent the noted health problems. Researchers hope this leads to the development of a screening tool that helps prevent complications.
“Thanks to advances in pediatric medicine and research, children are surviving cancer, but they are living with long-term complications of treatment for the disease,” said Mitchell. “We want to help these children and prevent these complications from happening in the first place.”
The $4.3 million was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the C17 Research Network and the Canadian Cancer Society.
Surgery podcasts get app treatment
The Surgery 101 podcast series, started by surgery professor Jonathan White, is now available as an app for tablets and smartphones.
The Surgery 101 app costs $0.99 for the latest 10 episodes; $4.99 gets buyers a one-year subscription. The app comes with notes from the podcast to make it easier for students to use as a study aid. All proceeds from sales of the app go to the Tom Williams Endowed Chair for Surgical Education.
The podcasts, which racked up more than 100,000 downloads in their first year, were meant as learning tools for U of A medical students, but they were soon downloaded by curious listeners from 100 countries worldwide. The series now receives an average of 1,000 to 2,000 downloads a day, and is approaching 500,000 downloads total. “It’s popular because it’s made by real surgeons who know what medical students need,” said White.