Researchers at Rush Medical Center creating national database to study autism

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the United States. It now affects one in every 68 children and on in every 42 boys.

That's one reason why there is an intense push to try to find treatment and a possible cure. There is a major research study taking place at Rush Medical Center in Chicago.

Jack Belmonte is an active 5th grader. The 10-year-old is also living with autism and he has trouble with social interactions.

"We have tried everything to alleviate some of that struggle for him, mostly because we will go to the ends of the earth for our kids," said Jenni Belmonte, Jack's mother.

That's why Jack and his family have come to the autism research center at Rush. They are taking part in a ground-breaking research study, which is now gathering genetic information on autistic individuals. They're creating a national database.

"We are trying to get as many families who are affected by autism engaged in the research community, engaged in research. Share with us their experiences and then develop a community that can help us down the road," said Dr. Latha Soorya of the Rush Autism Research Center.

It's simple to take part. Just fill out some short forms on-line then, have your child or young adult provide a saliva sample. The DNA is then categorized and stored for testing when new treatments come along.

"At Rush we have about three hundred individuals with autism that are enrolled and our target is twelve hundred. If we could have our way, we would have every kid in Chicago and Illinois be registered with this data-base because we want it to reach as many people as it can," said Dr. Soorya.

The Belmonte's simply hope this information will eventually lead to life-altering breakthroughs or even a cure.

"That's hard as a parent to see your child go through this and it's like that every day. Every day we struggle with it and every day we hope that, in the back of your mind, that studies like this are going to help us," said Tony Belmonte, Jack's father.

"Even if it leads to different therapies for different children then we're on our way," Jenni Belmonte said.

Nation-wide they are hoping to register 50,000 individuals on all levels of the autism spectrum. There is a concentrated effort now to get more minorities to sign up for this research.

For more information about the Rush autism study, visit
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