Project Detail
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Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

MeHG stimulates antiapoptotic signaling in stem cells  

A common feature among children with autism is a larger brain size at birth and a slower rate of increase in brain size after birth. Many factors contribute to the size of the brain and these include the number of cells, the amount of cellular material (myelin, dendrites), and the size of ventricles. Many studies have been conducted examining the genes regulating these factors but fewer studies have been concerned with environmental factors. In autism, for example, the preponderance of research has been directed to mutations, polymorphisms, and gene-gene interactions. Yet, studies have shown a direct link between the environment and autism. Furthermore, population studies have revealed the importance of environment-gene interactions. The question posed in our study is whether environmental chemicals affect brain size. More specifically, the studies are directed to understanding the effect of methyl mercury and cadmium on cell number. These chemicals kill cells and many studies have been published delineating the mechanism of cell death. In contrast, the studies here will examine whether very low concentrations of these chemicals protect cells. The number of cells in the brain, or any organ, depends on proliferation and cell death. There are a number of factors that will promote cell death depending on the type of cell. In the brain, for example, neurons die during normal development under conditions such as growth factor withdrawal or diminished nutrients. Cell death occurs through apoptosis, which is a complex and orderly process that enables the surrounding tissue to remain healthy. Chemicals that kill cells at high concentrations might induce protection at low concentrations. Indeed, mild hypoxia has been shown to pre-condition cells resulting in a higher resistance to apoptosis induced by intense hypoxia. The experiments described here will test the hypothesis that apoptosis is impeded by exposure to low concentrations of cadmium and methyl mercury through the induction of the anti-apoptotic protein hairless. Project Status


Funder Department of Defense
Fiscal Year Funding $0.00
Current Award Period 2009-2011
Project Number AR080096
Principal Investigator Bressler, Joseph
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 3: What Caused This To Happen And Can This Be Prevented? (Causes)
Subcategory Environment
Strategic Plan Objective Yellow dot: Objective has some degree of funding, but less than the recommended amount. 3SF. Initiate studies on at least 10 environmental factors identified in the recommendations from the 2007 IOM report "Autism and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for Research" as potential causes of ASD by 2012. Estimated cost $56,000,000 over 2 years.
Federal or Private? Federal
Institution Kennedy Krieger Institute
State/Country Maryland
Web Link 1 MeHG stimulates antiapoptotic signaling in stem cells (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
New! History/Related Projects MeHG stimulates antiapoptotic signaling in stem cells | $0.00 | 2009 | AR080096