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Analysing Autism

Autism spectrum disorder changes occur early in brain cell development from stem cells

02 March 2019

Analysing Autism

The foundations of autism are thought to take hold during early brain development, but precisely when and where is hard to pinpoint. To narrow it down, researchers watched as stem cells – precursor cells that can develop into any cell type – derived from patients developed into brain cells (pictured, with specific cell types stained in red and green to help track progress). The cells grew both faster and in different patterns to those from healthy people at a very early stage of development. The team identified key characteristics of the stem cells, and were even able to trigger this autism-related mis-development in normal cells, demonstrating the initial steps of mastering the process. Autism in its many forms, from severe to very manageable, is relatively common, but causes and treatments remain unclear. These findings might eventually help identify it earlier in life, when preventative interventions could potentially divert the disorder.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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