Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 371, Issue 1, pp 153–160 | Cite as

Autism spectrum disorders and disease modeling using stem cells

  • Anita Brito
  • Fabiele Baldino Russo
  • Alysson Renato MuotriEmail author
  • Patricia Cristina Baleeiro Beltrão-BragaEmail author


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent a variety of disorders characterized as complex lifelong neurodevelopment disabilities, which may affect the ability of communication and socialization, including typical comportments like repetitive and stereotyped behavior. Other comorbidities are usually present, such as echolalia, hypotonia, intellectual disability and difficulties in processing figured speech. Furthermore, some ASD individuals may present certain abilities, such as eidetic memory, outstanding musical or painting talents and special mathematical skills, among others. Considering the variability of the clinical symptoms, one autistic individual can be severely affected in communication while others can speak perfectly, sometimes having a vocabulary above average in early childhood. The same variability can be seen in other clinical symptoms, thus the “spectrum” can vary from severe to mild. Induced pluripotent stem cell technology has been used to model several neurological diseases, including syndromic and non-syndromic autism. We discuss how modeling the central nervous system cells in a dish may help to reach a better understanding of ASD pathology and variability, as well as personalize their treatment.


Autism spectrum disorders ASD iPSC Stem cells Disease modeling 



We would like to thank the support of the agency FAPESP (2011/20683-0, 09/51180-03), the NGO “the tooth fairy project, Brazil”, the National Institutes of Health (R01MH108528, R01MH094753, R01MH109885, R01MH100175, R56MH109587, U19MH107367), the “Autour des Williams” Association, a NARSAD Independent Investigator Grant (to A.R.M.) and to the ASD and control individuals and their families for donation of their teeth to “the tooth fairy project”.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anita Brito
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fabiele Baldino Russo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alysson Renato Muotri
    • 3
    Email author
  • Patricia Cristina Baleeiro Beltrão-Braga
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, Stem Cell LaboratoryUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology, Institute of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics/Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, Stem Cell ProgramUniversity of California San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Department of ObstetricsSchool of Arts Sciences and HumanitiesSão PauloBrazil

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