The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will jointly establish a research center that will, for the first time, study the possible role that environmental contaminants play in the development of autism.
The UC Davis Center for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research is being created under a $5 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Environmental. Health Sciences. The M.I.N.D. Institute and UC Davis are providing another $4 million in funds over the next five years.
"Environmental exposure to mercury, pesticides and other contaminants during early childhood development could easily alter the normal function of a child's systems," said Isaac Pessah, professor of molecular biosciences at the veterinary school and principal investigator for the new research center. "If we find they do, we can then develop rational strategies for treatment and we can work towards preventing exposure to those poisons."
David G. Amaral, a neuroscientist in the School of Medicine who specializes in the study of brain function in autism and is co-principal investigator of the center, said, "The center's faculty includes eminent researchers in environmental toxicology, neurodevelopmental disorders, immunology, epidemiology and Superfund initiatives. This multi-disciplinary collaboration is a catalyst for generating answers about what does and does not cause autism."