Deriving Neuroprogenitor Cells from Peripheral Blood of Individuals with Autism
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
The physical examination of neurological changes in individuals with autism has been made difficult by the necessity of obtaining brain tissue in a timely manner from individuals who have died. Being able to obtain tissue from autistic patients in a noninvasive manner would enhance the ability of researchers to study the cellular changes which occur in autistic brains. A potential technique to circumvent this problem is the use of peripheral mononuclear blood cells (or PMBCs), which are similar to stem cells and can be obtained from blood samples. In the laboratory, PMBCs can be differentiated into multiple types of cells, including neurons. PMBCs derived from the blood of autistic individuals might provide a useful method of examining the effects of genotype on the differentiation and function of neurons. In this study, Dr. Fujinami and colleagues will test the feasibility of making neurons from PMBCs obtained from autistic individuals. If neurons can be derived from these cells, they will examine the characteristics of the neurons obtained from autistic individuals to determine whether they differ from those derived from typical individuals. Neurons from autistic individuals, for example, might express different genes than those from typical individuals, or survive at different rates. This research could provide a powerful new tool to study neuronal function in autism, and supplement the data obtained from traditional postmortem analyses.