The Patrick Wild Centre was established in 2010 with the generous support of Dr Alfred Wild, who studied Medicine at Edinburgh, and Gus Alusi and Reem Waines, a family whose son Kenz has fragile X syndrome.
The Centre is named in memory of Dr Wild’s brother Patrick, who was autistic, and as a tribute to the brothers’ parents, who cared for Patrick throughout his life.
Research at the Patrick Wild Centre is multidisciplinary and translational, combining fundamental laboratory-based research, behavioural and clinical studies. This allows us to work towards a better global understanding of the brain and mind of people with autism and fragile X, from their genetics to their lived experiences.
The Patrick Wild Centre’s fundamental research is guided by the philosophy that improving our understanding of the brain will lead to better therapeutic options for people with autism spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome and intellectual disabilities. To that end, we study brain development and plasticity using a multidimensional approach, involving genetics, informatics, stem cell biology and pre-clinical imaging.
Essential to our progress in these areas is our increased imaging capabilities, which have been made possible by Dame Stephanie Shirley, a pioneering figure of the IT industry now turned philanthropist. The Shirley Imaging Suites comprise state-of-the-art laser microscopes that can take pictures of live tissues during experiments as well as look deeper into brain tissue than previously possible. These microscopes also enable us to test chemical compounds on tissue samples where neuronal circuits work differently — as in autism spectrum disorders — to see how these circuits can be modified.
Our clinical research is similarly exciting and groundbreaking. We initiated the first medicine trials for fragile X syndrome and we have since coordinated multiple sites in the UK.
We have also completed studies of non-medical therapies, including social skills groups and technology-based interventions. Ultimately, we believe that it is by combining medical and non-medical interventions that we will achieve the greatest benefits for people with autism or fragile X syndrome, and their families.
As well as coordinating trials of new therapies, we are also working to develop better ways of tracking responses to interventions using unbiased biologically relevant methods, such as measuring brain function using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To this end, we have pioneered techniques to conduct MRI scans in people with intellectual disability and ASD.
Beyond our work on therapy and intervention options, our clinical research also focuses on getting a better understanding of the mind and life of people with autism and fragile X. We are interested in understanding their specific cognitive profiles, with their unique strengths and challenges, as well as their lived experiences, including their needs and concerns. This will impact clinical and educational practices, while also providing evidence-based information for families and carers.
Read more about the work we do on our Research page.