Friday, November 12, 2010

Adult Stem Cells Used To Study Autism

Scientists are using adult stem cells to study autism. They're using cells taken from adults suffering from a related disorder to study autism.
The stem cells came from adult patients with Rett syndrome, a severe developmental disorder similar to autism.

Researchers sought to make neurons from these cells because "if we can understand the extreme case, we can understand all the others," said study researcher Alysson R. Muotri, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

Now, researchers can use the cell model to test drugs and therapies to study how they can impact autism, Muotri said.

Often, it's hard to test autism treatments in animals because it's difficult to see the physical manifestations of the disorder — researchers can't observe the impaired social interactions and communication that are the hallmarks of the disease in humans, Muotri said. Until now, the only other solution was drug testing directly in humans.

"Now, we're proposing that, before going to humans, we test in cells," he said.

To create the cells, researchers from the university and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California took cells from patients with Rett syndrome, and transformed them into cells similar to embryonic stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells.
This kind of research may show insight into how autism develops and potential treatment paths.

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