A group of researchers at the University of Rutgers New Brunswick have used stem cells that can become other cells in the brain to develop 2 experimental models: one of them a live 3D model of the brain, and one a mouse brain model with human cells implanted. Their goal is to investigate early brain development that is related to Down syndrome.
Their study focuses on the human chromosome 21 OLIG2, and was published here. “Our results suggest that this gene is potentially an excellent prenatal therapeutic objective to reverse the abnormal development of the embryonic brain, and rebalance the two types of neurons in the brain: excitatory and inhibitory. A healthy balance is essential, as well as improving postnatal cognitive function, ” says Peng Jiang, professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience and one of the authors of the study.
Babies with down syndrome are born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, which changed how their brains and bodies develop. Currently, down syndrome affects around 1 in 700 babies.
To conduct their research, the authors obtained skin cells from patients with down syndrome and genetically reprogrammed them to human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs).