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Stem Cells and Autism

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 6 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Stem Cells Autism Model Safe Disease

There is still much we do not know about how autism develops, which makes it more challenging to find new treatments and ways of addressing the disorder. Recently, however, stem cells have shown promise in helping safely develop treatments for autism.

What is Autism?

Autism is a disorder that relates to a person’s neural development. Its classic symptoms include abnormal social interaction and difficulties with normal communication. Behaviours shown by autistic children, for instance, may be antisocial ones.

It is thought that autism interferes with normal information processing because it changes the way that a person’s nerve cells communicate. We still don’t know exactly how and why this occurs although there are numerous links.

What Causes Autism?

It is believed that there is a strong genetic basis for autism although other factors are also suggested to play a role. These include environmental causes or exposure of the mother to toxins.

With the number of people diagnosed with autism continuing to rise, there is more attention being given to the disorder and how we can help those who are diagnosed with autism while preventing its occurrence in the first place.

Using Stem Cells to Study Autism

More recently, studies have focused on better ways to learn about autism. By using stem cells, they have been able to engineer neurons in a way that we now have a human cellular model. This model is a safe way to study how autism develops in the brain.

Rett Syndrome Patients

Researchers obtained the stem cells from adults who have Rett syndrome, which shows similarities to autism and is a major developmental disorder. Given that Rett syndrome is such an extreme case, researchers thought it was ideal to study autism. If they were able to understand what happens with Rett syndrome, they could better understand other developmental disorders such as autism.

Stem Cells for Safer Testing

The benefit of a cell model like this one is that it’s a safe way to test out drugs and other therapies to see if they can provide any potential benefits for people with autism. While it’s common to test on animals, in a disorder such as autism, there are additional challenges.

With something like autism, much of the diagnosis of the disorder comes from behavioural manifestations. In this sense, it is difficult because we can’t see the dysfunctional social interactions and problems with communication that are characteristic of autism.

Without animal testing first, it would mean doing any drug testing in humans, which is significantly more dangerous. The key benefit with the cell model is that we avoid these risks.

Positive Results With Stem Cells

Researchers treated the stem cells and triggered them to differentiate into neurons, but found these neurons had abnormalities we would not see in a neuron from a healthy person. These neurons were smaller and didn’t have the normal number of synapses, which are important for neurons to communicate. When these cells were treated with drugs that help autism symptoms in mice, however, these abnormalities were reversed.

Finding Better Treatments Using Stem Cells

While the study results do not completely prove it will work the same in humans, results are promising and do suggest the neurons can benefit. This use of stem cells as a safer model for testing will also help us perform similar testing for other diseases, giving hope to people with autism or other developmental disorders.

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stem cell treatement for my adule sonthank u
camler - 6-Nov-17 @ 3:10 PM
Hi I am interested in stem cell treatment for my 38 years old daughter who is suffering from severe autism, please send me some information about the treatment and cost please ! Kind regards Loanne
Loulou - 25-Oct-17 @ 5:14 PM
Im interested in the stem therapy threatment. How much it cost
Kash - 24-Aug-17 @ 12:05 AM
Hello, I would like to find out more information on stem cell therapy offered in the UK for autism. My son is 5 years old and on the spectrum. His is sevrely autistic and i would appreciate information on any new developments or treatments. Kind regards Ma
Ma - 4-Aug-17 @ 4:27 PM
I would like to know if there are any treatment centres currently in the U.K. offering stem cell therapy. I have a non verbal daughter with autism.can you please send me as much information as possible.
Benjani - 25-Jun-17 @ 8:39 PM
And what about the numerous objections from autistic people that we do not want to be treated nor prevented? I am amazed by what stem cells are able to do and interested in them as a course of treatment for many things, but have an ethical objection to this in particular. I do not want autistics to be prevented. I want us to be born autistic and stay autistic, and you will find many autistic people agree with this. Trying to prevent a certain type of person from existing under the claims of preventing a disorser is borderline or actual eugenics. Autism makes up every aspect of our existence, our personality, our relationships, our thoughts, our behaviors. You are not trying to cure or prevent a disorder- you are trying to cure and prevent a person's entire existence.
C - 2-Mar-17 @ 11:28 PM
Hello ...I have an autistic son who is 7 he is non verbal and I am thinking of stem cell treatment for him.I would like to know if there are any treatment centres currently in the U.K. offeringstem cell therapy .
Ng - 18-Feb-17 @ 2:44 PM
Hello. We have a 5 year old autistic boy,am interested in trying Stem Cell therapy to try and better his condition, for him to have a better normal life. Any help out there please.
Lou - 2-Feb-17 @ 8:57 PM
Hi please can you advise me were in can have stem cell treatment done for my autisticchild i live in the UK
jani - 25-Dec-15 @ 10:59 AM
is it possible to cure Autism by using Plant cell products?
namrata - 22-Dec-15 @ 3:33 PM
Jojo - Your Question:
@CowieHi! This is very very late, but I saw your comment and decided to answer it, to clear up any rumours.Autism is a social, behavioural and often times mental disorder, and as told above it's symptoms are of the anti-social type. This is not always true as I have Autism and I am a very affectionate and social (if having no friends but trying to socialise counts a social) person. However I still have difficulty understanding other people's emotions.Autism is formed in the body during the mother's pregnancy - it is not a birth defect as much as a genetic mutation. I want to clear one thing up: Autism is NOT caused by vaccinations. A doctor came along one day, looked at some information which stated all his Autistic patients had had all their vaccinations and made the hasty decision that "Oh, Autism must be caused by vaccines.". This is 100% false and that doctor should have all his degrees, doctorates etc. taken away from him.At the moment there is no cure as it is a state of mind of sorts, however there is medication to help control the misbehaviour (search Vyvanse or Ritalin (these are medications for ADHD but help with Autism as most people with Autism also have ADHD)). Therapy with a psychologist can help too, as I have learned my basics of how to be a person (that's what I call it - it's actually the basics of how to look vaguely normal in society) from one, and a speech therapist may also help if your sister has trouble speaking.I hoped this information helped! (I really do, because I took time out of doing my assignment for this!)~Jojo

Our Response:
Thanks for your comments Jojo, they are very informative and I'm sure our readers will be interested. Good luck with your assignment.
ExploreStemCells - 13-Nov-15 @ 2:33 PM
@Cowie Hi! This is very very late, but I saw your comment and decided to answer it, to clear up any rumours. Autism is a social, behavioural and often times mental disorder, and as told above it's symptoms are of the anti-social type. This is not always true as I have Autism and I am a very affectionate and social (if having no friends but trying to socialise counts a social) person. However I still have difficulty understanding other people's emotions. Autism is formed in the body during the mother's pregnancy - it is not a birth defect as much as a genetic mutation. I want to clear one thing up: Autism is NOT caused by vaccinations. A doctor came along one day, looked at some information which stated all his Autistic patients had had all their vaccinations and made the hasty decision that "Oh, Autism must be caused by vaccines.". This is 100% false and that doctor should have all his degrees, doctorates etc. taken away from him. At the moment there is no cure as it is a state of mind of sorts, however there is medication to help control the misbehaviour (search Vyvanse or Ritalin (these are medications for ADHD but help with Autism as most people with Autism also have ADHD)). Therapy with a psychologist can help too, as I have learned my basics of how to be a person (that's what I call it - it's actually the basics of how to look vaguely normal in society) from one, and a speech therapist may also help if your sister has trouble speaking. I hoped this information helped! (I really do, because I took time out of doing my assignment for this!) ~Jojo
Jojo - 13-Nov-15 @ 7:46 AM
@Fazkola - Although there is a lot of potential in this area, the trials are still at an early stage of development. You would have to keep your eye on news articles and what clinical trials may be coming up.
ExploreStemCells - 29-Jun-15 @ 10:16 AM
Hi, I have just come across this website and the whole stem cell treatment is new to me. I have a son with autism and would like as much information as possible. Willing to do whatever it takes!
Fazkola - 26-Jun-15 @ 1:25 AM
yes autism can be treated by stem cells along with growth factors & the results are encouraging, but it has to be autologus transfer and I had treated two cases
mikky - 21-May-15 @ 7:41 PM
Please, if anyone knows the cause of Autism or anything about it, can they contact me or post a comment. Cheers! :)
Cowie - 21-Apr-11 @ 7:45 PM
My little sister has Autism, and I would love it if they found a cure or even a treatment to help it and to stop other kids from getting it.
Cowie - 21-Apr-11 @ 7:40 PM
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