Scientists Find When and Where Human Stem Cells Model the Brain

  • First-ever bioinformatics tools measure how successfully neural stem cells grown in lab model human brain development
  • Discovery shows what aspects of autism, other neurological diseases can be studied “in a dish”
  • Study results showed expression of autism genes is highly preserved in these cells, identifying them as good models to screen drugs for autism
  • Predictive tool called CoNTExT available online for research community

Led by Dr. Daniel Geschwind, director of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, scientists from UCLA’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have pioneered a set of biological data analysis (bioinformatics) tools that for the first time measure how successfully brain (neural) stem cells grown in the laboratory model the outermost part of the brain called the cortex during early stages of human fetal development. The nearly three-year study was published July 2, 2014 in the leading journal Neuron.