Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Autism Science Foundation Podcast: ‘Minibrains’ and gene enhancers

ASF’s Alycia Halladay and Autism Speaks’ Dan Smith discuss two remarkable new advances in autism research
July 24, 2015

In this week’s podcast by the Autism Science Foundation, ASF Chief Science Officer Alycia Halladay and neuroscientist Dan Smith, Autism Speaks’ vice president for innovative technologies, discuss two remarkable new advances in the study of the autistic brain.

The first advance involves the creation of brain organoids, or “mini-brains” grown from skin cells using stem cell technology.

“That’s cool,” says Dr. Halladay. “But let’s not forget that scientists also need to study the actual (postmortem) brains of people with autism.”

In the second half of the podcast, Drs. Halladay and Smith discuss the importance of such a study recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. It found altered levels of “gene enhancers” in donated postmortem brain tissue from individuals who had autism.

Both of these studies represent great advances in the type of basic research needed to make personalized medicines a reality for people severely affected by autism, Dr. Smith says.

Listen to the full podcast here.

To learn more about post-mortem brain donation to advance autism research, visit Autism BrainNet, an initiative supported by Autism Speaks and the Simon Foundation Autism Research Initiative.