University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Center for Childhood Neurotoxicology and Assessment (2002-2008)
- Publications: (2002-2008)
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Center Director: George Lambert
Project 5: Clinical Sciences Project
The main focus of the UMDNJ Childrens Center, established in 2002, was to examine the effects of environmental chemicals on neurological health and development, with an emphasis on the interaction between exposure to environmental factors, learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The causes and contributing factors for ASD are poorly understood. The incidence of children with ASD has been increasing, and the CDC estimates that in the U.S. an average of 1 in 110 children have an ASD, and the rate is higher for male children. Most cases seem likely to arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, while improvements in diagnosis could also be contributing to the increased rates. Projects at the UMDNJ Childrens Center included using animal models to examine the role of oxidative stress in neurodevelopment. The Center was also looking to see if there might be biomarkers that could distinguish children with autism from typically developing children. The university published a profile of the research at the UMDNJ Childrens Center in 2004, available at: http://www.umdnj.edu/research/publications/winter_04.pdf
Primary Environmental Exposures: Environmental neurotoxicants, including methylmercury
Primary Health Outcomes: Learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
Project 1: Neurotoxicant Effects on Cell Cycle Regulation of Neurogenesis
The objective of this research project is to investigate the hypothesis that neurotoxic metals and teratogens disrupt neurogenesis in developing forebrain and hindbrain systems in vitro and in vivo, acting to inhibit proliferation by altering mitogenic growth factor receptors and cell cycle and signaling pathways.
Project 2: Adhesion and Repulsion Molecules in Developmental Neurotoxic Injury
Normal brain development depends on the appropriate temporal and spatial expression of neural adhesion and repulsion molecules, several families of membrane proteins that provide instructive and permissive guidance for neuronal and neuritic movement. We postulate that neurotoxic metals perturb brain development/morphogenesis by disrupting the regulated expression and function of critical morphoregulatory adhesion and repulsion molecules. We further postulate that defects in these critical molecules give rise to morphological, biochemical, and behavioral effects of relevance to the study of autism spectrum disorder.
Project 3: Disruption of Ontogenic Development of Cognitive and Sensory Motor Skills
This project examined the effects of toxins such as methylmercury and lead on neurodevelopment, as seen by specific behaviors, using pharmacologic models of autism in mice. This project included a characterization of key behaviors (such as balance beam performance) under normal conditions and testing to see how they are perturbed by exposure to these toxicants.
Project 4: Exposure Assessment and Intervention Project (EAIP)
The research being conducted within the Exposure Assessment and Intervention Project (EAIP) is continuing to address specific objectives associated with our first hypothesis: the unique behaviors of neurologically impaired children lead to higher exposures from single and multiple neurotoxicants in their personal or residential environment.
Project 5: Clinical Sciences Project
This project addresses three major hypotheses:
- The regression of neurological function observed in some children with autistic spectrum disorder, which occurs at the time the child becomes mobile, is a result of exposure to high levels of neurotoxicants.
- In children with autistic spectrum disorder, high levels of neurotoxicants can altar regional brain growth patterns as determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Susceptibility to developing autism can be influenced by the child or mother’s genotype of enzymes involved in protecting the developing human from chemical-induced oxidative stress.
Autism New Jersey is a non-profit agency providing information and advocacy, services, family and professional education, and consultation to New Jersey's autism community. COSAC encourages responsible basic and applied research that would lead to a lessening of the effects and potential prevention of autism. COSAC is dedicated to ensuring that all people with autism receive appropriate, effective services to maximize their growth potential and to enhancing the overall awareness of autism in the general public.
The Eden Institute of Princeton provides a comprehensive continuum of lifespan services designed to enable children and adults with autism to lead fulfilling, productive and independent lives in their communities, to the full extent of their abilities. The non-profit organization was founded in 1975 when parents and professionals joined together to develop a family-oriented, multifaceted program to provide a community-based alternative to institutionalization of children and adults with autism.
The Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center (DDDC) of Rutgers University exists to meet the needs of people with autism spectrum disorders and their families.