Lack of association between autism and four heavy metal regulatory genes

30 Jul

One question that has been discussed for some time is the hypothesized role of mercury as a potential cause of autism. The basic idea is that administrative prevalences of autism went up coincident with increases in mercury exposure from vaccines. Plus, it was asserted that autism symptoms are similar to the symptoms of mercury poisoning (they aren’t).

Part of the mercury model held that there could be a genetic susceptibility to mercury in a subset of children.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have explored the question by testing autistics for genes involved in how the body processes mercury. They did not find any link between the four genes they screened and autism.

Of course one could argue that some other gene or genes are important. One would then need to explain why mercury exposure from vaccines does not increase the risk of autism.

The paper:
Lack of association between autism and four heavy metal regulatory genes.

Here’s the abstract.

Neurotoxicology. 2011 Jul 20. [Epub ahead of print]
Lack of association between autism and four heavy metal regulatory genes.
Owens SE, Summar ML, Ryckman KK, Haines JL, Reiss S, Summar SR, Aschner M.
Department of Pediatric Toxicology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA.
Autism is a common neurodevelopmental disorder with genetic and environmental components. Though unproven, genetic susceptibility to high mercury (Hg) body burden has been suggested as an autism risk factor in a subset of children. We hypothesized that exposure to “safe” Hg levels could be implicated in the etiology of autism if genetic susceptibility altered Hg’s metabolism or intracellular compartmentalization. Genetic sequences of four genes implicated in the transport and response to Hg were screened for variation and association with autism. LAT1 and DMT1 function in Hg transport, and Hg exposure induces MTF1 and MT1a. We identified and characterized 74 variants in MT1a, DMT1, LAT1 and MTF1. Polymorphisms identified through screening 48 unrelated individuals from the general and autistic populations were evaluated for differences in allele frequencies using Fisher’s exact test. Three variants with suggestive p-values <0.1 and four variants with significant p-values <0.05 were followed-up with TaqMan genotyping in a larger cohort of 204 patients and 323 control samples. The pedigree disequilibrium test was used to examine linkage and association. Analysis failed to show association with autism for any variant evaluated in both the initial screening set and the expanded cohort, suggesting that variations in the ability of the four genes studied to process and transport Hg may not play a significant role in the etiology of autism.

4 Responses to “Lack of association between autism and four heavy metal regulatory genes”

  1. Jim Thompson August 5, 2011 at 07:28 #


    It is important to note corrections in comments on the blog that is currently closed for comments. See “Ancestry of pink disease (infantile acrodynia) identified as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorders”


    Correction of Sullivan’s comment:

    One grain is 65 milligrams, not 65,000 milligrams.


    Correction of Jim Thompson’s comment:

    The total amount of 91 million doses of thimerosal preserved flu vaccine at 50 micrograms of thimerosal per vaccine gives 4,450 grams of thimerosal (2,275 grams of mercury). This is equivalent to the amount of thimerosal in 7,583 doses of 60 mg/kg for 7,583 children each weighing 10kg (22 pounds).

    The thimerosal MSDS lists 60 milligrams per kilogram as a single case of a child’s death with a dose of 60 mg/kg for intraaural exposure.

    So the 4,450 grams of thimerosal in the 91 million doses is the amount equal to an LD100 for 7,583 children.

    Once again, no one has determined that further dilution into 91 million humans is safe.

    • Sullivan August 12, 2011 at 23:18 #

      Jim Thompson,

      thanks for the correction. I’ll edit the comment where that mistake was made. Doesn’t change the logic.

      As to the rest, you are once again showing how you don’t understand MSDS’s and toxicity information. Which is a bit reason why this discussion is over. It isn’t my job to school you on this. Once again, take your toxicity discussions elsewhere. Scare people with your misunderstandings elsewhere. Come back when you have the intellectual integrity to admit that mercury didn’t cause an “autism epidemic”.


  1. Autism Blog – Lack of association between autism and four heavy … | My Autism Site | All About Autism - July 31, 2011

    […] Read the original: Autism Blog – Lack of association between autism and four heavy … […]

  2. Autism News: Research Looks at Possible Association Between Autism and Genes that Regulate Heavy Metals - October 31, 2011

    […] Regarding Findings of Autism Research Involving Heavy Metal Regulatory Genes and Autism from Left Brain/Right […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: