Solving the Mystery of Autism

New research center aims to unravel the basic biology of autism, related disorders  

Photo of Greenberg, Yang and Daley

From left: HMS Neurobiology Chair Michael Greenberg, Philanthropist Lisa Yang, HMS Dean George Q. Daley. Image: Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

Autism and related disorders—a constellation of neurodevelopmental conditions affecting one in 59 children in the United States alone—have become one of modern medicine’s most confounding mysteries. The condition is believed to arise from the complex interplay between genes and environment, yet its basic biology remains largely a black box.

Now, a new research effort at Harvard University led by Harvard Medical School is poised to identify the biologic roots and molecular changes that give rise to autism and related disorders with the goal of informing the development of better diagnostic tools and new therapies.