Monday, 31 August 2015

Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation and a mouse model of autism

I once again tread carefully in this brief post talking about stem cells and autism on the back of what seems to be some growing research interest in this area (see here).

The paper by Hadar Segal-Gavish and colleagues [1] adds to this increasing interest with their efforts detailing what happened to a mouse model of autism (the BTBR mouse) following "intracerebroventricular MSC [mesenchymal stem cells] transplantation."

Looking at what happened when MSC transplantation was used, the authors highlight various behavioural and biological effects including: "a reduction of stereotypical behaviors, a decrease in cognitive rigidity and an improvement in social behavior." BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) was also reported to show changes following transplantation: "elevated BDNF protein levels in the hippocampus accompanied by increased hippocampal neurogenesis in the MSC-transplanted mice compared with sham treated mice."

The authors conclude: "Our study suggests a novel therapeutic approach which may be translatable to ASD [autism spectrum disorder] patients in the future."

Acknowledging that stem cells and autism is still a little bit of a hot potato in terms of the limited available research and more ethical questions about its use, these are interesting results. A recent opinion paper from Simberlund and colleagues [2] on the topic of MSC and autism highlighted the 'pitfalls and potential promises' of this line of investigation, and how despite almost universal scientific approval in terms of 'success' of this type of intervention so far, "substantial methodological and theoretical challenges and pitfalls remain before this can be considered a viable therapeutic option."

I'm gonna leave it at that for now.

Music: Aerosmith - Walk This Way.

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[1] Segal-Gavish H. et al. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation Promotes Neurogenesis and Ameliorates Autism Related Behaviors in BTBR Mice. Autism Res. 2015 Aug 10.

[2] Simberlund J. et al. Mesenchymal stem cells in autism spectrum and neurodevelopmental disorders: pitfalls and potential promises. World J Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Jul 31:1-8.

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ResearchBlogging.org Segal-Gavish H, Karvat G, Barak N, Barzilay R, Ganz J, Edry L, Aharony I, Offen D, & Kimchi T (2015). Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation Promotes Neurogenesis and Ameliorates Autism Related Behaviors in BTBR Mice. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research PMID: 26257137