Fox Chase Cancer Center receives grant to study possible link between measles vaccine and autism

PHILADELPHIA -- Glenn F. Rall, PhD, a member and noted scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center has been awarded $189,000 from the M.I.N.D. Institute at U.C. Davis in California to study whether a link exists between the measles vaccine and the development of autism.

Few believe that the vaccine directly causes a child to develop autism, Rall says. However, we have an obligation as scientists to investigate this disease and any of its possible causes.

Recent reports have fueled a debate within both medical and parent communities concerning the safety of childhood vaccines and their possible link to autistic spectrum disorders (ASD).

However, says Rall, if such a link exists, it is not well defined. It is imperative that this issue be resolved, either leading to the development of safer vaccine alternatives, or reassuring parents of the safety of childhood vaccines.

Rall and his colleagues at Fox Chase Cancer Center will be using transgenic mouse models, that is, mice that are genetically engineered to be susceptible to measles virus infected in the brain. They will explore the hypothesis that the immune response of a newborn mouse is directly influenced by the exposure history of its mother. Neonatal mice that nursed on unexposed mothers cannot resolve the infection, he says. In contrast, weve found in our preliminary research that newborn mice nursed on mothers who were previously exposed to measles were protected from central nervous disease, suggesting that the maternal exposure history afforded protection to her offspring, Rall says. In some mice however, previous maternal exposure to measles leads to an absence of an appreciable immune response, which Rall and his colleagues believe may indicate a novel form of tolerance.

Autism is a neurological disorder that strikes one in 500 children, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Autism ranges significantly in its severity, and is characteriz

Contact: Sue Montgomery Madden
Fox Chase Cancer Center

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