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Gerald P. Schatten, Director of the Pittsburgh Development Center Diane Carlisle Carlos A. Castro Laura Hewitson, Ph.D.
Chris Navara Kyle Orwig Cal Simerly


Laura HewitsonLaura C. Hewitson, PhD

Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
and Environmental and Occupational Health
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Pittsburgh Development Center
Magee-Womens Research Institute

PhD, University of York, England, 1993

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Reproductive Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1994-1995

Research Interests

Dr. Hewitson's research is focused on developing non-human primate models to better understand the genetic and environmental influences that lead to adverse pregnancy outcome, with special emphasis on autism and related disorders. Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction accompanied by a delay or lack of language, restricted interests, stereotyped behavior, and repetitive movement. The cause(s) of autism is still unknown, although there is clearly evidence for a genetic predisposition. A purely genetic basis for autism, however, does not fully explain the rapidly increasing prevalence of autism in recent years. Research in Dr. Hewitson’s lab examines genetic and environmental manipulations during primate embryonic, fetal and neonatal development with the goals of: 1) producing genetically modified non-human primates as models for autism to dynamically assess structural and biochemical differences in the brain using MRI and microPET imaging, respectively; and 2) understanding the complex interactions of the CNS, immune system and GI system in autism after exposure of neonatal non-human primates to mercury and/or viruses.
Dr. Hewitson is also the Principal Investigator on a clinical study being conducted at Magee-Womens Hospital that is examining the correlation between maternal and fetal methyl mercury levels and whether environmental exposure to methyl mercury affects fetal cytokine profiles.

Dr. Hewitson is currently funded by the National Alliance for Autism Research, the Center for the Environmental Basis of Human Disease (CEBHD) at the University of Pittsburgh and by Visceral, a medical research charity in the United Kingdom.

Recent Publications

Hewitson L, Martinovich C, Simerly C, Takahashi D, Schatten G. Rhesus offspring produced by intracytoplasmic injection of testicular sperm and elongated spermatids.
Fertil Steril. 2002;77(4):794-801.

Hewitson L, Simerly CR, Schatten G. ICSI, male pronuclear remodeling and cell cycle checkpoints. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;518:199-210.

Terada Y, Nakamura S, Simerly C, Hewitson L, Murakami T, Yaegashi N, Okamura K, Schatten G. Centrosomal function assessment in human sperm using heterologous ICSI with rabbit eggs: a new male factor infertility assay. Mol Reprod Dev. 2004 Mar;67(3):360-5.

Hewitston L. Primate models for assisted reproductive technologies. Reproduction. 2004; 128(3): 293-9.

Sackett G, Ruppenthal G, Hewitson L, Simerly C, Schatten G. Neonatal behavior and infant cognitive development in rhesus macaques produced by assisted reproductive technologies. Dev Psychobiol. 2006;48(3):243-65.

Dettmer AM, Houser LA, Ruppenthal GC, Capuano S, Hewitson L. Growth and developmental outcomes of three high-risk infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta).

Am J Primatol. 2007;69(5):503-18.

Complete Publication Listing

Professional Affiliations

American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Collaborative on Health and the Environment
Pennsylvania Task Force on Autism
Autism Society of America
Defeat Autism Now!





Last Modified: 10-Oct-2007
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