Autism Spectrum Disorder Research at NYSCF
At NYSCF, we are studying autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with stem cells from individuals with ASD to illuminate how genetics factor into a patient’s risk for developing the disorder as well as disruptions in brain development and function.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research at NYSCF
What is ASD?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition caused by differences in the brain. The reasons for this differ from individual to individual. While some people may have known differences, such as changes in their DNA, many other causes are not yet known. Scientists believe there are multiple factors influencing ASD that act together to change the most common ways people develop. We still have much to learn about these causes and how they impact people with ASD.
The disorder can affect how people communicate, learn, and behave, including:
- Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people
- Restricted interests and repetitive behaviors
- Symptoms that affect their ability to function in school, work, and other areas of life
Autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience.
How is NYSCF Using Stem Cells To Study ASD?
In collaboration with The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation (NLMFF) NYSCF is creating stem cells from people with ASD to investigate what makes one person more likely to develop the disorder than another, and how genetics influence the disorder’s severity.
At the NYSCF Research Institute, we are using our own, powerful robotic platform to create stem cells for research. Our NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array® can rapidly, efficiently, and reproducibly create stem cells from skin or blood, and then reprogram these cells to become the brain cells impacted by ASD.
With these cells, we can tease apart how genetics correlate with different forms of the disease, hopefully pointing to patterns that can inform new therapies.
These stem cells will also be shared throughout the wider research community to accelerate ASD research.
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Studies suggest there is a genetic component to autism. Having a family health history of autism makes you more likely to have a child with autism, or to have autism yourself. How exactly one’s genetics make them more likely to develop autism requires further study, and NYSCF uses stem cells to interrogate these differences.
Not all people with autism carry intellectual disability, but about one in three people with ASD experience intellectual disability to some degree.
There is no medical test to diagnose autism, so doctors rely on analysis of behavior and development. The disorder can be detected during early childhood, but a final diagnosis typically is not made until a child is older. Learn more here.
Research is ongoing to understand how exactly autism affects the brain. Previous studies suggest differences in the structure and connectivity of the brain. NYSCF is creating stem cell models to better understand how brain cells are affected in those with ASD.
The number of children diagnosed with autism each year is increasing, but researchers indicate this increase likely reflects improvements in how we identify and diagnose the disorder rather than an increase in the number of people affected.