Atypical Neurogenesis in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells From Autistic Individuals

Open Access Published: June 22, 2020

DOI: Metrics



Autism is a heterogeneous collection of disorders with a complex molecular underpinning. Evidence from postmortem brain studies have indicated that early prenatal development may be altered in autism. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) generated from individuals with autism with macrocephaly also indicate prenatal development as a critical period for this condition. But little is known about early altered cellular events during prenatal stages in autism.


iPSCs were generated from 9 unrelated individuals with autism without macrocephaly and with heterogeneous genetic backgrounds, and 6 typically developing control individuals. iPSCs were differentiated toward either cortical or midbrain fates. Gene expression and high throughput cellular phenotyping was used to characterize iPSCs at different stages of differentiation.


A subset of autism-iPSC cortical neurons were RNA-sequenced to reveal autism-specific signatures similar to postmortem brain studies, indicating a potential common biological mechanism. Autism-iPSCs differentiated toward a cortical fate displayed impairments in the ability to self-form into neural rosettes. In addition, autism-iPSCs demonstrated significant differences in rate of cell type assignment of cortical precursors and dorsal and ventral forebrain precursors. These cellular phenotypes occurred in the absence of alterations in cell proliferation during cortical differentiation, differing from previous studies. Acquisition of cell fate during midbrain differentiation was not different between control- and autism-iPSCs.


Taken together, our data indicate that autism-iPSCs diverge from control-iPSCs at a cellular level during early stage of neurodevelopment. This suggests that unique developmental differences associated with autism may be established at early prenatal stages.

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About S. R. Zelenz 119 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.