Laura Hewitson

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Laura Hewitson
Alma materUniversity of Essex
University of York

Laura Charlotte Hewitson[1] is a British-born primate researcher noted for her work in the fields of reproductive biology and behavior. She is an Affiliate Scientist at the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC)[2][3] and Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.[2][4] Additionally, she is Research Director of The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development in Austin, TX.[2] Hewitson was a staff scientist at Oregon Health Sciences University from 1997-2001.[5] From 2002 to 2010 she was an Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine[6] and member of Magee-Women's Research Institute and Foundation (MWRI&F) in Pittsburgh, PA.[6]


In 1990, Hewitson graduated with honors in Biology from the University of Essex.[5] She earned her PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of York, UK and later moved to the United States in 1994 to pursue post-doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.[5]


Hewitson's research has primarily focused on embryo metabolism, cytoskeletal dynamics, centrosome abnormalities during fertilization, assisted reproductive technology (ART) in non-human primates and infant primate neonatal development.[6] More recently, Hewitson’s research has focused on understanding genetic and environmental influences that lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes, with special emphasis on autism spectrum disorders (ASD).[4][6] Her research has been funded through the National Institutes of Health,[7] as well as private foundations.[4][6][7]

Hewitson’s work on primate fertilization examined the role of the centrosome during assisted reproduction and identified unique check-points during the first cell cycle.[7] She also explored the safety of new methods of assisted reproduction by producing infant primates by ART to follow their early development and behavior (see Selected Publications).

Hewitson’s more recent research has focused on the study of genetic versus epigenetic (environmental) causes of neurodevelopmental disorders.[4][6] While at the University of Pittsburgh she researched the possible connection between pediatric vaccines and behavior and presented some of this research at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in 2008[8] and the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society (NBTS) meeting in 2011.[9] She is now continuing this research with colleagues at the WaNPRC.[10][11] Hewitson is also collaborating with colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to identify blood biomarkers for autism.[2] With funding from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative[12] and the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP),[13] Hewitson and colleagues are screening serum from children with and without autism for specific antibodies, which they hope could lead to improved diagnostic tools enabling earlier intervention and potentially even improved therapies.[14]

Awards and Achievements[edit]

In 2010, Hewitson was the recipient of the Invisible Disabilities Association Honors Research Award for her research in autism.[15]

Hewitson’s work has been published in many journals, such as Science, Nature Medicine, Biology of Reproduction, Human Reproduction, Fertility and Sterility, Developmental Psychobiology (journal), Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis, Autism Research and Treatment, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, and the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics.

Selected publications[edit]

Hewitson, L.C., Leese, H.J. (1993) Energy metabolism of the trophectoderm and inner cell mass of the mouse blastocyst. J Exp Zool. 267:337-343.

Hewitson, L.C., Martin, K.L., Leese, H.J. (1996) Effects of metabolic inhibitors on mouse preimplantation embryo development and the energy metabolism of isolated inner cell masses. Mol Reprod Dev. 43:323-330.

Hewitson, L., Simerly, C., Tengowski, M.W, Sutovsky, P., Navara, C,S., Haavisto, A.J. and Schatten, G. (1996) Microtubule and chromatin configurations during rhesus intracytoplasmic sperm injection: Successes and Failures. Biol. Reprod. 55:271–280.

Hewitson, L., Haavisto A, Simerly C, Jones J and Schatten G (1997) Microtubule organization and chromatin configurations in hamster oocytes during fertilization, parthenogenetic activation and after insemination with human sperm. Biol.Reprod. 57: 967-975.

Hewitson L, Takahashi D, Dominko T, Simerly C, and Schatten G. (1998) Fertilization and embryo development to blastocysts after intracytoplasmic sperm injection in the rhesus monkey. Hum Reprod 13:3449-3455.

Schatten G, Hewitson L, Simerly C, Sutovsky P and Huszar G. (1998) Cell and Molecular Biological Challenges of ICSI: A.R.T. Before Science? J Law Med Ethics 26:29-37.

Hewitson, L, Dominko, T, Takahashi, D, Ramalho-Santos, J, Sutovsky, P, Fanton, J, Jacob, D, Monteith, D, Neuringer, M, Battaglia, D, Simerly, C, and G. Schatten. (1999) Births of ICSI monkeys: unique checkpoints during the first cell cycle of fertilization. Nature Medicine 5:431-433.

Ramalho-Santos, J., Moreno, R.D., Sutovksy, P., Chan, A.Q.., Hewitson, L., Wessel G.M., Simerly C.R., and Schatten, G. (2000) SNAREs in mammalian sperm: possible implications for fertilization. Dev Bio 223:54-69.

Hewitson, L., Martinovich, C., Simerly, C., Takahashi, D., Schatten, G. (2002) Intracytoplasmic injection of rhesus testicular sperm (TESE-ICSI) and elongated spermatids (ELSI) results in healthy offspring. Fertil Steril. 77:794-801.

Simerly, C., Dominko, T., Navara, C., Payne, C., Capuano, S., Gosman, G., Chong, K.Y., Compton, D., Hewitson, L., and Schatten, G. (2000) Molecular Correlates of Primate Nuclear Transfer Failures. Science 300: 297-299.

Dettmer, AM, Houser, LA, Ruppenthal, GC, Capuano, S, Hewitson, L. (2007) Growth and developmental outcomes of three high-risk infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Am J Primatol. 69: 503-518.

Hewitson, L., Lopresti, B., Mason, N.S, Stott, C. and Tomko, J. (2010) Influence of pediatric vaccines on amygdala growth and opioid ligand binding in rhesus macaque infants: A pilot study. Acta Neurobiologiae Exp 70: 147-164.

Bharathi S. Gadad, Laura Hewitson, Keith A. Young, and Dwight C. German, “Neuropathology and Animal Models of Autism: Genetic and Environmental Factors,” Autism Research and Treatment, vol. 2013, Article ID 731935, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/731935

Schutte C, Hewitson L. Relationship between Stereotyped Behaviors and Restricted Interests (SBRIs) measured on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and diagnostic results. Open Access Autism 2014 Aug 11;2(2):15.

Curtis B, Liberato N, Rulien M, Morrisroe K, Kenney C, Yutuc V, Ferrier C, Marti CN, Mandell D, Burbacher TM, Sackett GP, Hewitson L. Examination of the Safety of Pediatric Vaccine Schedules in a Non-Human Primate Model: Assessments of Neurodevelopment, Learning, and Social Behavior. Environmental Health Perspectives, Feb 18, 2015


  1. ^ "WorldCat Identities entry for Laura Charlotte Hewitson".
  2. ^ a b c d "Laura Hewitson Biography". Johnson Center for Child Health and Development.
  3. ^ "WaNPRC Study Examines Safety of Pediatric Vaccines, Such as MMR - Washington National Primate Research Center". 24 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Gadad BS, et al. (September 2013). "Neuropathology and animal models of autism: Genetic and environmental factors". Autism Research and Treatment. 2013: 731935. doi:10.1155/2013/731935. PMC 3787615. PMID 24151553.
  5. ^ a b c JCCHD. "The Johnson Center for Child Health & Development : Staff".
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Laura C. Hewitson, Ph.D." Archived from the original on 2005-04-24.
  7. ^ a b c Hewitson L, et al. (April 1999). "Unique checkpoints during the first cell cycle of fertilization after intracytoplasmic sperm injection in rhesus monkeys". Nat Med. 5 (4): 431–3. doi:10.1038/7430. PMID 10202934.
  8. ^ Hewitson L, et al. (May 2008). "Pediatric vaccines influence primate behavior, and amygdala growth and opioid ligand binding". International Meeting for Autism Research.
  9. ^ Hewitson L, et al. (2011). "Discrimination Reversal Learning in Infant Primates Exposed to Low-Dose Thimerosal: A Pilot Study". Neurotoxicology and Teratology. 33 (4): 501. doi:10.1016/
  10. ^ Burbacher T, Grant KS, Worlein J, Ha J, Curnow E, Juul S, Sackett GP (Nov 2, 1013). "Four decades of leading-edge research in the reproductive and developmental sciences: the Infant Primate Research Laboratory at the University of Washington National Primate Research Center". American Journal of Primatology. 75 (11): 1063–1083. doi:10.1002/ajp.22175. PMC 5452618. PMID 23873400.
  11. ^ "Environmental Health Perspectives".
  12. ^ "Identification of candidate serum antibody biomarkers in autism". Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  13. ^ "Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (DoD CDMRP)". Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  14. ^ Hewitson L (Mar 2013). "Scientific challenges in developing biological markers for autism". Open Access Autism. 1 (1): 7. doi:10.13172/2052-7810-1-1-474. Retrieved 14 Apr 2014.
  15. ^ "2010 Research Award - Laura Hewitson PhD - Invisible Disabilities Association - IDA".