Center for Developmental Disorders Research

The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) has established the Center for Developmental Disorders Research (CDDR) to connect clinical and basic science in translational research on the causes, early identification, and long-term repercussions of abnormal development. The ultimate goal is to find new treatments or cures for these developmental disorders. 

CDDR seeks to provide innovative research in areas such as identifying biomarkers in very and extremely pre-term and/or low birth weight babies (5.5 pounds or less); looking at the impact of parental genetics, health, and environment in early development; and exploring links between low birth weight and other developmental disorders such as Autism and other chronic diseases including cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Several new research projects have already been initiated as a result of CDDR being formed, including:
  • Exploring the etiology and biological mechanism of autism. Current efforts are aimed at understanding whether both genetic (MAO or SERT gene) and/or environmental factors (prenatal stress and/or perinatal antidepressant exposure) play a critical role on cortical network mis-wiring and abnormal behaviors.
  • Seeking a better understanding of brain injury in premature infants caused by adverse perinatal environmental factors, such as inflammation, hypoxia-ischemia, corticosteroid exposure, hyperoxygenation (hyperoxia), among others.
  • Investigating the mechanisms that link low birth weight with increased risk for later chronic disease including cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
  • Conducting epidemiological studies to determine how influences that slow growth during fetal life resulting in low birth weight increase an individual's risk to develop obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.
  • Exploring whether placental pathology can be used as an early biomarker for extreme preterm infants. Placental abnormality/pathology has been recently implicated as an early biomarker for autism, and recent report has suggested that ~50% of extreme preterm baby classified later on as ASDs.
  • Determining the effect of immune responses to insult during early development, a novel but highly ignored area of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Based on our own preliminary animal studies and limited clinical neuroimaging information, activated microglia appears to play a critical role in brain dysfunction. 
  • Measuring current nutrition levels for preterm infants to see if changes in serotonin related compound levels impact overall organ dysfunction including brain abnormal function. Strong evidence supports that the production of serotonin from the gut and/or placenta may be the major cause of organ dysfunction.
  • Developing new therapeutic approaches for children with pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), especially behavioral/social and/or speech/language deficits, since both basic and clinical studies have implicated early intervention offering the best outcomes.