Dr. Kong and her team’s research includes but not limited to:

1. Comparison of human saliva and stool microbiome in ASD
Microbiome status in the gut is thought to be associated with autism development, including behavior changes. Over-presentation of pathogenic strains such as Clostridium and suppression of normal resident bacteria in the gut have been reported. Research suggests that gut microbiome plays critical roles in gastrointestinal and possibly behavioral symptoms in patients with autism. However, the oral microbiome is relatively understudied compared to the gut microbiome. Currently, it is unknown whether or how oral microbiome is associated with gut microbiome in neurodevelopmental diseases such as ASD. We believe that this study would benefit this frontier of biomedical research. We hope that our research will help to guide current clinical practice and to develop novel therapeutic interventions. This project is currently open for recruitment.

2. Study of early screening tools for ASD early diagnosis
The current average age for ASD diagnosis is about 3-5 years old. However, ASD individuals already show signs as early as infancy.  The development of easily implementable early detection tools and screening tests has drawn great attention in recent years. RITA-T is a new protocol first published in 2015 and has only been used on limited subjects, with no further improvement since then. Our team aims to validate this method in additional populations, particularly in Chinese children, and investigate whether the protocol could be improved. We will use RITA-T itself, in its original form and after some modifications, to better characterize the psychological properties of ASD individuals.  After the RITA-T evaluation, we will go through the standard DSM-V evaluation to assess the accuracy of this new protocol.  We will use the gold standard DSM-V and ADOS, along with eye tracking studies using different paradigms to guide the further development of RITA-T and other screening tools in order to achieve an optimal protocol with the best sensitivity and the greatest simplicity. Considering the difficulty of optimizing both, a reasonable balance would be used to make a decision. Based on previous research, we expect to attain -70% sensitivity. This project is currently open for recruitment. If interested please follow this link. https://rally.partners.org/study/autismscreening 

3. Comparison of clinical efficacy of probiotics and oxytocin in ASD
Animal studies have shown that probiotics can induce the release of endogenous oxytocin (OXT). While many benefits have been attributed to probiotics in reducing GI discomfort in ASD, OXT is proposed to play a role in the brain-gut connection during the administration of probiotics in an autism treatment trial. We hypothesize that probiotic-induced endogenous oxytocin could improve social behaviors in ASD individuals. If OXT is confirmed to be the missing link of the gut-brain connection and probiotics can improve the social behaviors of ASD, probiotics will be valued for its safety for ASD management and should motivate more advanced researches leading to wide acceptance and compliance from patients and their family. Our study is also to examine whether probiotics can further enhance the beneficial effects of the exogenous OXT given by intranasal spray, and its correlation with the changes in brain imaging studies such as MRI and fMRI, biomarkers and autonomic dysfunctions. This study is registered as NCT03337035 on clinicaltrial.gov. 

4. Eye tracking and autonomic dysfunction in ASD

 

Shenzhen Research Collaboration and Shenzhen Autism Center:

1. tDCS treatment trial for children with ASD
2. Oxytocin treatment trial for children with ASD
3. The diagnostic value of biological markers for early screening of ASD
4. 3- year static MRI follow up study for high risk newborns
5. Validation of a new eye tracking paradigm
6. Early screening for high risk group for ASD particularly ASD siblings
7. PWS and ASD correlation study

 

Beijing Research Collaboration

1. GDM and Autism Cohort

 

Hunan Research Collaboration

1. Genomic and Phenotypic study: brain development and brain imaging

 

Our research goals are:

1. To identify and develop new early screening tools and biomarkers for ASD
2. To characterize the phenotypic and genetic subgroups of ASD
3. To understand the pathogenesis and reversible medical causes of ASD
4. To develop and optimize effective therapeutics to improve patient lives for these disorders
5. To use integrative, “East-meets-west” approach, and primary care model to conduct clinical trials to evaluate novel and effective treatments.
6. To promote international research collaboration and maximize the utilization of available resources to facilitate the innovation and technology transfer.

Our research fields include:

Autism Spectrum Disorder, Early Diagnosis, Subtyping, Microbiome, Probiotics, Neurotransmitters, Biomarkers, Immunology, Food Allergens, Nutrition, Electro Encephalo Gram, Eye Tracking, Neuroplasticity, Cellular defects, Neuroimaging, Clinical Trials, drug discovery and repositioning, and non-invasive therapies.