Mac autism researcher gets $2.5 million grant

By  Carmela Fragomeni
A McMaster University researcher has been granted $2.46 million to study ways to correct brain abnormalities in people with autism.
Laurie Doering, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at the university, was in Montreal Thursday when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government is helping to fund five research projects.
Some, like Doering's, are aimed at discovering new treatment and prevention strategies for autism while others focus on Alzheimer's.
The federal funds are part of a public-private partnership that involves the Brain Canada Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation and the Chagnon family.
For Doering's work, only the Brain Canada and Azrieli foundations are involved in funding, he said in a telephone interview following the announcement.
The five-year grant gives him the opportunity to track the activity, in mice, of molecules made by stem cells called astrocytes, which control how neurons communicate in the brain. The idea is to apply the astrocytes to replace missing proteins and restore function in specific neural pathways.
He said the research also involves Fragile X, the leading gene that causes autism.
Doering called the grant extremely significant.
"It's a huge amount of money. I can expand my lab, bring in new people and equipment."
Doering will lead a core group of six researchers, including one each at McGill, the University of Toronto and Baylor University in Texas.
As far as he knows, it's the only research of its kind in the world.
"It's very exciting. I can do experiments I couldn't have done with the budget I had before."
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