Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Disorders (POND) Network

Neurodevelopmental disorders arise from disturbances in the growth and development of the brain and the nervous systems. There are more than 300,000 children and youth in Ontario with neurodevelopmental disorders. There are few effective medications and they are only partially effective and have significant adverse effects, particularly in children. Thus, there is a clear and urgent need for new and better-targeted therapies that include behavioural and psychosocial interventions. To address these gaps, the POND Network has brought together a multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians, engineers, and community stakeholders who share the goal of improving the long-term outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Identification of genetic variants

The broad phenotypic spectrum of ASD is seen in the variability of presentation and severity among individuals and reflects the complexity of the underlying genetic etiology which ranges from monogenic syndromes to an accumulation of many low-risk alleles. While over 100 ASD susceptibility genes have already been described, studies estimate that there are over 1000 autism susceptibility genes indicating that capturing the complete genetic architecture underlying ASD will require sequencing many more individuals with ASD.

To identify novel ASD susceptibility genes, Q-GLO studies sporadic cases of ASD (no family history of ASD) to look for de novo mutations in the proband, and complex cases of ASD (have family history of ASD) for inherited and shared variants between family members. To identify these variants, Q-GLO employs several sequencing strategies including targeted gene panels, whole exome, and whole genome sequencing

Microbiome dysbiosis

The healthy human gut contains a network of millions of bacteria that help to digest food, fight infection and promote human health. Stress, changes in diet, antibiotic use, and other environmental conditions can disrupt the bacterial network, which in turns contributes to a wide range of illnesses. Our research aims to describe the microbiome (bacteria and bacterial genes) in individuals diagnosed with a neurodevelopment disorder (ASD and ADHD) or mood disorder (depression and anxiety) compared with their neurotypical, cohabiting siblings. Since bacterial composition can be relatively easily manipulated, personalized treatment of gut-bacteria-related psychiatric disorders shows tremendous potential for improving human health and reducing the economic burden of mental health disorders on the health care system.

“The ARBA” Study

We are currently investigating a study drug called arbaclofen to improve social functioning in children and teens with Autism. This study is comparing arbaclofen against placebo for improving social & global function and communication.



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