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