Right Turn: Autism stem cell research could use a boost

Author: Stacey Johnson, 04/22/16

While I’m sure news about autism spikes in April during the annual awareness campaign, I doubt autism is absent from the news very often. Whether parents and advocates are lobbying for more services and funding, experts and non-experts are arguing over whether vaccines cause autism or celebrities are jumping onto the awareness bandwagon, it seems that autism is everywhere. Even if you are someone who avoids the news, autistic characters are on television, movies and in books.

Unfortunately, where autism isn’t found is in the context of breakthrough stem cell research.

I know three families who are living with autism and, given the growing prevalence of this condition, you may be able to relate. In honour of these parents and kids, and autism awareness month, I wanted to write a post about stem cells and autism to tout whatever remarkable research is taking place. Regrettably, I’m finding it difficult to locate that research. This blog at EuroStemCell may help to explain why.

Nevertheless, here are a few things that caught my eye:

Duke University has a Center for Autism and Brain Development that is worth watching for developments. I enjoyed learning about the centre and its director here.

At the University of Guelph, Assistant Professor John Vessey is investigating “Protein inactivation by agrochemicals as a mechanism underlying development of Autism Spectrum Disorder” with a New Ideas grant from the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine. If successful, “this proposal will identify the mechanism by which pre-natal pesticide exposure triggers autism spectrum disorder and provide a target for therapeutic development.”

This is an area of research that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is also funding. You can watch four videos on this topic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 4.42.10 PM

If you would like reliable information about the state of stem cell research and autism, both the Stem Cell Network and the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation are reliable sources.

Hopefully there will be more to report before this time next year.

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
Stacey Johnson

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