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Funding to Explore Autism Risks

CU School of Medicine


AURORA, Colo. – The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has been awarded funding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out a new phase of the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED).

SEED is one of the largest studies in the United States to help identify factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Understanding the risk factors that make a person more likely to develop an ASD will help learn more about the causes. 

JFK Partners, an interdepartmental program of the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the CU School of Medicine, has participated in the SEED program since 2001. In the previous rounds of the SEED program, more than 1,000 children from the Denver area have enrolled. This round will expand SEED to include El Paso County and about 450 additional children.

SEED includes three groups of young children (3-5 years of age) – children with ASD, children with other developmental disabilities, and children in the general population. Detailed information is collected from children and their mothers about the child’s development and health, the mother’s pregnancies, and the family’s health. Blood and saliva specimens are also collected. The three groups of study participants are compared to better understand genetic and environmental factors related to having ASD, health conditions among children with and without ASD, and the range of developmental and behavioral characteristics in children with ASD. 

Cordelia Robinson Rosenberg, PhD, RN, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the CU School of Medicine and co-principal investigator on SEED, said the program collects essential information and offers a long-term view of the potential causes of ASD. Carolyn DiGuiseppi, MD, MPH, PhD, associate dean for faculty, professor and director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program for the Colorado School of Public Health, is the co-principal investigator. The SEED program is administered in partnership with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

CDC has previously funded two phases of SEED. Over 5,000 children nationwide were enrolled in the study during these earlier phases. In the upcoming new phase, CDC will fund five study sites to conduct SEED 3 so that more children can be enrolled in the study. In addition to funding external study sites, CDC will also conduct the study as a sixth site (Georgia SEED). Altogether, the six SEED 3 sites will enroll over 2,500 children.

In addition to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, awardees are Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin System and Michigan State University. About the University of Colorado School of Medicine