A glimpse into the earliest days of human development recently helped National Institutes of Health-sponsored neuroscientists learn how certain brain cells’ paths may relate to autism spectrum disorders.
NIH researchers were able to pinpoint specific brain cell clusters and engineer corrective action by looking into petri dish specimens.
By isolating specific components of the forebrain region in an experiment duplicating a “critical period in prenatal development,” lead scientist Dr. Sergiu Pasca of Stanford University and his colleagues discovered a way to positively influence cell cultures during the crucial growth period so that they formed and arranged themselves properly, according to a news release.
Pasca’s team coerced three-dimensional cell cultures to become spheroids and fused the together. The team then "tracked neuronal migrations from a deep brain spheroid to a cortex spheroid that mimicked those seen during normal development,” according to NIH.
Distinguishing this finding from previous studies was the model’s ability to reveal previously unknown details about the human forebrain’s development. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director Dr. Joshua Gordon described the work as promising, saying “(it) moves us closer to realizing the goal of precision medicine for brain disorders.”
“Our research provides a proof-of-concept for understanding the interaction of specific cell types and for building — as well as probing — circuits within personalized human microphysiological systems,” Pasca, who conducted the work under a NIMH grant, said.
The study was published in the April 26 online issue of the journal Nature.