Researchers at the Salk Institute have used stem cells to understand the changes in neural development for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study has uncovered the first measurable changes in neuronal development of individuals with ASD, which is a major step toward understanding the disorder and ameliorating current therapies. The research found that by allowing the stem cells to differentiate into neurons, several developmental steps differed in cells from individuals with ASD compared to the control group. This led researchers to the conclusion that changes occur much earlier in neuronal development, since cells from individuals with ASD turn on their genes for neuronal development much earlier and the neurons grew faster compared to controls.
"A major challenge in the field has been to determine the critical developmental periods and their associated cellular states. This research could provide a basis for discovering the common pathological traits that emerge during ASD development," says author of the study Simon Schafer.
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