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A link between thimerosal and the brain: Can vaccines affect central nervous system function?

According to new research from Northeastern University pharmacy professor Richard Deth and colleagues from the University of Nebraska, Tufts, and Johns Hopkins University, there is an apparent link between exposure to certain neurodevelopmental toxins and an increased possibility of developing neurological disorders including autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The research the first to offer an explanation for possible causes of two increasingly common childhood neurological disorders will be published in the April 2004 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry, and earlier as advance online publication.

Though some speculation exists regarding this link, Deth and his colleagues found that exposure to toxins, such as ethanol and heavy metals (including lead, aluminum and the ethylmercury-containing preservative thimerosal) potently interrupt growth factor signaling, causing adverse effects on methylation reactions (i.e. the transfer of carbon atoms). Methylation, in turn, plays a significant role in regulating normal DNA function and gene expression, and is critical to proper neurological development in infants and children. Scientists and practitioners have identified an increase in diagnoses of autism and ADHD in particular, though the reasons why are largely unknown.

In their work, the scientists found that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and the neurotransmitter dopamine both stimulated folate-dependent methylation pathways in neuronal cells. At the same time they noted that compounds like thimerosal, ethanol and metals (like lead and mercury) effectively inhibited these same biochemical pathways at concentrations that are typically found following vaccination or other sources of exposure. By better understanding what happens when infants and children are exposed to these materials, the work of Deth and his colleagues helps to explain how environmental contact with metals and administration of certain vaccines may lead t
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Contact: Aimee Midei
molecularpsychiatry@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-6739
Molecular Psychiatry
5-Feb-2004


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