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All Press Releases for January 23, 2014 »
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Robin Ganzert Unveils Groundbreaking Study into Genetics Behind Autism, OCD

Further exploring the human-animal bond, Robin Ganzert sheds light on a new study investigating OCD in dogs and autism in children. Understanding the genetic component could lead to better care.
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    WASHINGTON, DC, January 23, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association (AHA), explains that humans and animals have always had an intricate bond. They share many similarities and interact in such a way that has positive benefits for each. A recent study is taking a closer look at just how deep these connections run and the potential that they hold.

The AHA has partnered up with the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) for the study Canines, Kids and Autism: Decoding Obsessive Behaviors in Canines and Autism in Children. Thanks to advances in technology, scientists at TGen can complete genome sequencing on dogs. Their aim is to find exactly what genes are responsible for the development of atypical behaviors such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in dogs. The three breeds that their work will focus on are purebred Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and Jack Russell Terriers.

By further understanding the role of genetics, the hope is that both physicians and veterinarians can improve therapeutic treatment techniques and diagnosis of these disorders. Currently the exact causes of OCD and autism spectrum disorder are yet unknown. However, over the course of the past decade, the number of children diagnosed with autism has continued to increase. It is estimated that one out of every 88 children is affected by this disorder. It is even more prevalent in boys, affecting one out of every 54.

Researchers believe that the findings related to OCD in dogs could lead to a better understanding of autism in children. Phil Francis, retired chairman and CEO of PetSmart Inc. and advisor to TGen's canine research studies explains, "The potential impact of this research for both children and canines is profound. With the number of children who are diagnosed with autism each year increasing, and the legions of pet parents who want their canine friends to live healthy lives, I can think of no better place for potential supporters to contribute their resources."

The AHA and TGen are also working in collaboration with professionals from the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts Medical Schools. The team, which includes Tufts' Dr. Nicholas Dodman and University of Massachusetts' Dr. Edward Ginns, is recognized for its work in animal behavior disorders. Dr. Dodman was instrumental in previous research regarding OCD-like behaviors in dogs, and his work was published in Molecular Psychiatry. The AHA will actively collaborate with researchers and contribute to the study design and data interpretation.

Due to federal budget cuts, the study is not able to receive federal funding. However, they are not letting this stand in their way and are actively seeking private funding to support their research. "This study has the potential to help us better understand the link between humans and animals and how these disorders affect both groups," says Dr. Robin Ganzert. "Through this collaboration we hope to learn more about the genetic basis of OCD and autism, which could lead the way to advances in diagnosis and treatment." Dr. Robin Ganzert is eager to see the impact and results of this study.


Through her work at the American Humane Association, Dr. Ganzert has helped the organization to thrive and have an even greater impact. The AHA's focus is to not only protect the wellbeing, wellness, and welfare of children and animals everywhere, but also to maximize the human-animal bond. Robin Ganzert has spearheaded numerous initiatives geared toward research, education, training, and services that are making a difference.

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