Autism and Other Childhood Mental Illnesses

Members of the Seaver research team participate in inter-related autism research programs in genetics, experimental therapeutics, and cognitive neuroscience and publish more than 50 related articles a year in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. Using state-of-the-art molecular genetics, neurobiological, and clinical approaches, we continue to make breakthroughs in multiple aspects of autism research. The interdisciplinary research platform of the Seaver Autism Center is supported by dedicated individuals from diverse backgrounds and includes biologists, physicians, neuroscientists, psychologists, research staff, and trainees in psychiatry, psychology, neuroscience, and medicine.

Advances in Research

The Seaver Autism Center has been instrumental in discovering new genes implicated in autism and is a member of the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), an international group of researchers involved in high-throughput sequencing in autism.  Co-founded and co-directed by Joseph D. Buxbaum, PhD, Director of the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the ASC aims to collectively exploiting sequencing approaches to resolve a substantial fraction of the genetic factors involved in autism. Recently funded by the National Institutes of Health, the ASC plans to sequence and analyze more than 20,000 human exomes.  There are already more than 3,000 exomes on Mount Sinai's Minerva supercomputer, and another 17,000 samples are expected to be added in 2014. This represents one of the largest whole exome sample sets in psychiatry and a major effort in autism research.

Advances in Patient Care

Using the translational research strategy detailed above, researchers at the Seaver Center have tested several treatments, including Oxytocin and Memantine. Most currently, Alex Kolevzon, MD, the Clinical Director of the Center, has begun a clinical trial of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) in people with autism. Seaver researchers began with the discovery that a missing or mutated copy of the SHANK3 gene in humans causes 22q13 Deletion Syndrome/Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS). Most people with PMS are also affected by autism, and the SHANK3 gene mutation accounts for one percent of autism cases. Seaver researchers replicated this mutation in rodent models, and they found that IGF-1 reversed the social deficits caused by the mutation in mice and rats. Researchers have since tested the safety and efficacy of IGF-1 in people with PMS, and, in January 2014, a trial will begin of autism more broadly.

Contact Us

Phone: 212-241-0961
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The Seaver Autism Center
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Department of Psychiatry
Box 1668
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029