Dr. Patricia Braga and her team at the University of Sao Paolo, in collaboration with Alysson Muotri, professor of pediatrics and cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego, are using dental stem cells from donated baby teeth to grow neurons and examine the role of astrocytes in the expression of Autistic traits such as language impairment, repetitive behaviors and sleeping difficulties. Dr. Braga has used dental pulp stem cells from two groups of patients - children with Autism and a non-autistic control group, and directed their stem cells to differentiate into brain cells in vitro. When allowed to grow, the stem cells developed into clusters that contained the star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes, as well as fully grown neurons. Upon closer inspection, the astrocytes and neurons from children with Autism showed significant functional differences compared to the control group cells. Autistic astrocytes release excessive amounts of an inflammatory molecule called interleukin-6 (or IL6), which, in concentrated amounts, can harm nearby neurons and hinder their functionality. Additionally, the neurons from Autistic children were found to fire less frequently, form fewer synapses (connections with other neurons) and release less glutamate, which is used to excite surrounding neurons and transmit signals.
The study also revealed that when properly-functioning astrocytes were placed in the same growth medium as the malfunctioning neurons found in children with Autism, the neurons were able to branch out more and transmit signals more effectively. This pivotal research suggests the potential for stem cell and gene therapy treatments that would normalize the functionality of neurons of children with Autism.
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Dr. Braga’s innovative research demonstrates the integral role stem cells are playing in cutting edge medical care options. By banking their own valuable stem cells, families can ensure that they will have access to these emerging therapies in the near future. To learn more about banking stem cells, please visit StemSave or call 877-783- 6728 (877-StemSave) today.
The Future of Regenerative Medicine is Now™
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