Topics to be investigated include:
- Possible implications of folic acid supplementation (which has increased over time, particularly for pregnant women);
- Possible implications of a widely used chemical called Bisphenol A, an ingredient in some plastics;
- Possible implications of a Vitamin D deficiency in mothers and children;
- Altered immune function in fetuses during development ("Dr. Nicholas Ponzio from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey will be examining how T cells and cytokines function in the brain and the placenta, as well as how they affect the developing fetus.")
Dr. Judy Van de Water at the University of California at Davis is partnering with Vanderbilt University researchers to study how changes in the expression of the MET gene, shown to be associated with autism, regulate maternal autoantibody production. Of importance, this study will also examine how environmental toxicant exposure, including ethylmercury (the major component of thimerosal) as well as a common environmental toxicant BDE-47, influences cytokine production. ...As an interested non-scientist, it seems to me that the first few studies - those addressing folic acid, vitamin D, and bisphenol A - all have the potential to make a real difference for people now living with autism. If, in fact, it turns out that a little extra time in the sun could truly make the difference for thousands living with autism - then all power to the Vitamin D Council! If we find that too much folic acid - recommended to mothers-to-be as a way to prevent birth defects, is causing an autism epidemic - well, I suppose we'll have a replay of the thalidomide catastrophe, but we'll also see the end of the rise in autism diagnoses.
Three projects will focus on the potential role of vaccines, specifically the role of ethylmercury or other vaccine components. These include a project by Dr. Flavio Keller at the University Bio-Medica in Rome, who will study the behavioral and pathological effects of ethyl and methyl mercury on a strain of mice that possess a certain mutation in order to examine gene and environment interactions. Dr. Mark Noble from the University of Rochester will use a genetically modified cell line to study the effects of ethylmercury and aluminum hydroxide on oxidative potential. Finally, Dr. David Baskin from Methodist Hospital in Houston will study cell proliferation in response to thimerosal exposure.
But as regards the studies that focus on the contents of vaccines, I would ask that those better versed in research protocols make a comment. Are mice studies really helpful in parsing out the impact of vaccines on human infants? How useful will these studies be in taking steps forward in the process of understanding and managing autism?