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Research indicates that the diagnosis of autism can be done in children from as early as 18 months. According to a new study, researchers have traced atypical development from the early stages of brain development in making brain cells.

Using induced pluripotent stem cells to model brain development

According to a publication in the Elsevier Journal Biological Psychiatry by a researcher from Cambridge and king’s College London, autism can be traced from the early stages of prenatal development. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects speech, behavior, and social skills. The US CDC estimates that around one out of 54 children in the US is affected by autism. Normally signs of autism spectral disorder will appear at around two to three years and could be associated with delayed development.

MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders’ Dr. Deepalk Srivastava stated that they employed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in modeling early brain development. The scientists discovered that there was a slight difference in bran cell development in autistic individuals. The cells were treated to different growth factors with hair cells driven to become neurons found in cortex and midbrain regions.

The induced pluripotent stem cells maintained each individual’s genetic identity as the cell development mirrored prenatal development. Replicating early brain development helped in identifying unique factors related to autism.

Using a non-invasive method to study neural development

Dr. Dwaipayan Adhya from the neuroscience department at king’s College and Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre stated that stem cells were the most ethical way of studying brain development in autistic individuals. Unlike other studies that need human models before human trials, the use of skin or hair samples is a non-invasive way of studying genetics.

At early cell development stages, the researchers sequenced their RNA to see the genes to be expressed. Typical people had floral shaped neurons or neural rosettes on the 9th day of development. On the other hand, autistic cells formed smalle3r rosettes or floral shapes with developmental genes from autistic individuals.