H. Vasken Aposhian

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Hurair Vasken Aposhian
Other names Vasken Apohian
Alma mater Brown University, University of Rochester, Stanford University
Known for Arsenic-related research
Spouse(s) Mary M. Aposhian
Children Christine M. and David L. Aposhian[1]
Scientific career
Fields Toxicology
Institutions University of Arizona

Hurair Vasken Aposhian is a Ph.D. toxicologist and an emeritus professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Arizona, a post he held beginning in 1975.[2] He is also a former professor of pharmacology at the medical school at said university. He received his bachelor's degree in chemistry, at Brown University, 1948. He received a master's degree and a PhD in physiological chemistry at the University of Rochester, where he published some scientific studies about the synthesis of isoalloxazine ring-containing compounds.[3] He did a postdoctoral with Nobel Laureate Arthur Kornberg in the department of biochemistry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has done sabbatical scholar-in-residence at MIT and at the University of California at San Diego. He is best known for his pioneering work on Succimer and Unithiol in the treatment of arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals leading to FDA approval of succimer in childhood lead poisoning at levels over 40ug/dl. Previous posts he had held include at Vanderbilt, Tufts University, and the University of Maryland. His views about mercury in vaccines and in dental amalgams go against the consensus of the medical community and are controversial.


Aposhian's first academic appointment was to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine,[4]:95A and he was an instructor there from 1954 to 1956.[5] Some of his research has been published in the Journal of Virology, and in the autism omnibus trial he testified that he was "the first one to show that a virus could transfer genetic information that was not in it originally."[4]:119 He also testified that he acted as a biochemical geneticist from 1959 until he went to teach at Tufts University in 1967, during which time he was affiliated with Stanford University.[4]:119 He would leave Tufts in 1970 to become department chair at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.[6] He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed studies on heavy metal poisoning.[7] In 1964, Aposhian, along with, notably Arthur Kornberg, both of whom were affiliated with Stanford University at the time, published "Enzymatic Synthesis of Deoxyribonucleic Acid" in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.[8] Kornberg would go on to win the Nobel Prize for discovering the biological mechanism by which DNA is synthesized. His more recent research has focused on the metabolism of arsenic compounds,[9] in particular, deciphering polymorphisms in the gene that codes for glutathione S-transferase, which is involved in arsenic detoxification.[10] Some of this research he has authored along with his wife, Mary M. Aposhian,[11] who died in 2009. He has extensive research experience and publications dealing with the toxicology of heavy metals, in particular arsenic and mercury. This has included enzymology of arsenic biotransformation; the study of human populations in Chile, Inner Mongolia, Romania, Mexico and rural Southwest China as to their body burden of arsenic or mercury; the human metabolism of chelating agents; and biochemical genetics in particular gene transfer in mammalian cells.[2]

Views on mercury exposure[edit]

Aposhian has recently advocated for the view that thimerosal-containing vaccines cause autism, and has testified before the Institute of Medicine in 2004 before they issued a review concluding that the evidence favors rejecting a vaccine-autism link.[12]

Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services[edit]

In the 2007 court case Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Aposhian was the first witness called to the stand by the claimant's lawyers.[13] In his testimony, Aposhian elaborated on a potential theory as to how MMR and thimerosal-containing vaccines might have worked together to cause autism. The proposed mechanism involved something known as "mercury efflux disorder", and Aposhian testified that "The hypothesis was made less than three or four weeks ago."[4]:207A He also stated that efflux disorders have been documented before, and described them as "problems with getting a metal, in this case mercury, out of a cell," citing Wilson's disease as an example thereof.[4]:95A Aposhian also testified, with regard to the concept of a dose-response relationship, that "This is an ancient form of quotation that until recently we taught in medical schools, and in undergraduate school, and in graduate school. We now have to consider the hyper susceptibility of people."[4]:129A According to Arthur Allen, author of the book Vaccine, "On cross examination, Aposhian acknowledged there was no record of any child becoming autistic as a result of mercury exposures prior to the thimerosal theory."[14] In the end, the special master decided that "The reports and advice given to the Cedillos by Dr. [Arthur] Krigsman and some other physicians, advising the Cedillos that there is a causal connection between Michelle’s MMR vaccination and her chronic conditions, have been very wrong. Unfortunately, the Cedillos have been misled by physicians who are guilty, in my view, of gross medical misjudgment". The decisions in the case completely debunked the notions and implied that doctors who base their treatments on them are unscientific and unethical.

Dental amalgam controversy[edit]

In addition to being opposed to mercury in vaccines, Aposhian has also voiced concern about the safety of mercury in dental amalgam fillings. On July 11, 1994, Aposhian was interviewed for a BBC program entitled "Poison in the Mouth." The host of the program, Tom Mangold, said that Aposhian's research had shown that two-thirds of the mercury in the body came from dental amalgam fillings.[15] Additionally, when a meeting, "Mercury in Medicine: Are we taking unnecessary risks?", was held on July 18, 2000, Aposhian said, "The mercury amalgams in your mouth, the so-called silver fillings, contain 48 to 50 percent of elemental mercury. These fillings continuously emit mercury vapor, which will go to the brain and is converted to mercuric mercury….Certain fish contain methylmercury; again, very rapidly taken up from the GI tract, transported quickly to the brain, and converted very slowly to mercuric mercury….thimerosal which again will be taken up by the brain and quickly converted to mercuric mercury – all three forms are neurotoxic. By neurotoxic, we mean it will damage nerve and it will damage brain tissues."[16] These concerns are supported by some of Aposhian's "research", which has concluded erroneously that there exists "a positive correlation between the amount of amalgam in the teeth and the amount of amalgam in the body" of subjects who were given the widely discredited "provoked testing" chelating agent 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid.[17] This method however has been proven to provide unreliable results which do not reflect the true "body burden" of heavy metals in the patient.

Selected publications[edit]


  • Echeverria, D.; Aposhian, H. V.; Woods, J. S.; Heyer, N. J.; Aposhian, M. M.; Bittner Jr, A. C.; Mahurin, R. K.; Cianciola, M. (1998). "Neurobehavioral effects from exposure to dental amalgam Hg(o): New distinctions between recent exposure and Hg body burden". FASEB Journal. 12 (11): 971–980. PMID 9707169. 
  • Maiorino, R. M.; Gonzalez-Ramirez, D.; Zuniga-Charles, M.; et al. (1996). "Sodium 2,3-dimercaptopropane-1-sulfonate challenge test for mercury in humans. III. Urinary mercury after exposure to mercurous chloride". The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 277 (2): 938–944. PMID 8627576. 
  • Aposhian, H. V.; Morgan, D. L.; Queen, H. L.; Maiorino, R. M.; Aposhian, M. M. (2003). "Vitamin C, glutathione, or lipoic acid did not decrease brain or kidney mercury in rats exposed to mercury vapor". Journal of toxicology. Clinical toxicology. 41 (4): 339–347. PMID 12870874. doi:10.1081/CLT-120022000. 



  1. ^ "Mary M. Aposhian Obituary". Arizona Daily Star. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "H. Vasken Aposhian". Environmental Protection Agency. Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Aposhian, H. V.; Lampbooy, J. P. (1954). "The Synthesis of 6-Ethyl-9-(D-1'-ribityl)-isoalloxazine". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 76 (5): 1307–1308. doi:10.1021/ja01634a033. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Transcript of 1st day of autism omnibus trial" (PDF). United States Court of Federal Claims. 11 June 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Response to comments document" (PDF). European Chemicals Agency. 1 December 2011. p. 19. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Founding our Department". Tufts University School of Medicine Website. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Allen, Arthur (18 June 2007). "In Autism-Vaccine Case, RNA and a Prayer". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Richardson, C. C.; Schildkraut, C. L.; Aposhian, H. V.; Kornberg, A. (1964). "Enzymatic Synthesis of Deoxyribonucleic Acid. Xiv. Further Purification and Properties of Deoxyribonucleic Acid Polymerase of Escherichia Coli". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 239: 222–232. PMID 14114848. 
  9. ^ Le, X. C.; Lu, X.; Ma, M.; Cullen, W. R.; Aposhian, H. V.; Zheng, B. (2000). "Speciation of Key Arsenic Metabolic Intermediates in Human Urine". Analytical Chemistry. 72 (21): 5172–5177. PMID 11080860. doi:10.1021/ac000527u. 
  10. ^ Yazbak, F. Edward. "Intimidation in the Court". Vaccination News. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Aposhian HV, Aposhian MM (2006). "Arsenic toxicology: five questions". Chemical Research in Toxicology. 19 (1): 1–15. PMID 16411650. doi:10.1021/tx050106d. 
  12. ^ Ault, Alicia (10 February 2004). "Federal Panel Hears Testimony on Vaccinations and Autism". New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  13. ^ Mnookin, Seth (2012). The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy. Simon & Schuster. p. 286. 
  14. ^ Allen, Arthur (June 2007). "Autism in Court: Day 1". Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Administrator. "BBC Panorama The Poison in Your Mouth". Mercury Exposure: A guide to dental mercury amalgam fillings. 
  16. ^ Diemond, Christy (17 June 2005). "FDA "Asleep At the Switch" Says 2003 Congressional Report "Finds Thimerosal, (Mercury) In Vaccines "Did Pose A Risk"". Uninformedconsent.org. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Aposhian HV, Bruce DC, Alter W, Dart RC, Hurlbut KM, Aposhian MM (1992). "Urinary mercury after administration of 2,3-dimercaptopropane-1-sulfonic acid: correlation with dental amalgam score.". FASEB Journal. 6 (7): 2472–6. PMID 1563599.