About SPARK at Rush
SPARK is an online research initiative designed to become the largest autism study ever undertaken in the United States. Sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), SPARK will collect information and DNA for genetic analysis from 50,000 individuals with autism — and their families — to advance our understanding of the causes of this condition and to hasten the discovery of supports and treatments.
Rush is one of a select group of 25 research institutions across the nation chosen by SFARI to assist with recruitment, a testament to Rush's strength in autism research. In Chicago, the SPARK effort is a collaborative research initiative between the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Center and Rush University Children’s Hospital. The research is led by Latha Soorya, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and research director at the AARTS Center, and Cesar Ochoa-Lubinoff, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and director of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Rush University Children's Hospital. Learn more about SPARK at Rush from the links below:
- SPARK aims to speed up autism research by inviting participation from this large, diverse autism community, with the goal of including individuals with a professional diagnosis of autism of both sexes and all ages, backgrounds, races, geographic locations and socioeconomic situations.
- Autism is known to have a strong genetic component. To date, approximately 50 genes have been identified that almost certainly play a role in autism, and scientists estimate that an additional 300 or more are involved. By studying these genes, associated biological mechanisms and how genetics interact with environmental factors, researchers can better understand the condition's causes, and link them to the spectrum of symptoms, skills and challenges of those affected.
- SPARK will connect participants to researchers, offering them the unique opportunity to impact the future of autism research by joining any of the multiple studies offered through SPARK.
- The initiative will catalyze research by creating large-scale access to study participants whose DNA may be selectively analyzed for a specific scientific question of interest.
- SPARK will also elicit feedback from individuals and parents of children with autism to develop a robust research agenda that is meaningful for them.