Investigating Environmental Factors Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder; Effects of Methylene Chloride on Neurodevelopment in Zebrafish

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CONFERENCE: Celebration of Undergraduate Research

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Ruffatto, Juvi
Neuroscience and Neurobiology
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Recent epidemiological research suggests that increased methylene chloride exposure of pregnant mothers has a direct correlation with increased Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) prevalence in their children. Methylene chloride is a volatile organic compound commonly used as a solvent in paints, in the production of pharmaceuticals, and as a propellant for insecticides. However, there have been no studies to date to see how this chemical impacts brain development and if it regulates known ASD physiology. The purpose of this research is to determine how methylene chloride affects neural development in zebrafish. Following exposure of embryos to various concentrations of methylene chloride, (1) body and brain morphology was observed via brightfield microscopy and (2) mRNA expression of genes associated with different cell types and known alterations in ASD were measured using quantitative PCR. Initial results indicate methylene chloride can induce dose-dependent changes in overall development and suggest alterations in inhibitory neuron development. Long-term, characterizing the molecular impact of methylene chloride action on brain development may contribute to the improvement of ASD therapeutic treatments and inform data-driven environmental regulations.