The Framingham Heart Study is perhaps one of the most ambitious long-term studies in medical history. Begun in 1948 under the direction of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute it has been in operation for upwards of a half century. In collaboration with the community, researchers for the study have documented the cardiac-related conditions of more than 5,000 residents of a single Massachusetts town; an effort which has helped to identify major causative factors and characteristics of heart disease.
This year, the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment (RICART) has launched a ground-breaking effort comparable in scope. Backed by a $1.2 mllion grant by a New-York based scientific research firm, The Simons Foundation, RICART is set to establish a State-wide autism registry and network. The project will link families and researchers in an effort "to spur important and innovative research on the causes and treatments for individuals with autism and related conditions," according to Stephen Sheinkopf, Ph.D., a clinical researcher at Women & Infants Hospital and co-director of the RI-CART project.
Over the next three years, the project aims to enroll over 1,000 children and adults with autism. With just over one million residents over 1,000 square miles, it is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are about 10,000 people with autism in Rhode Island.