Hindawi Publishing CorporationJournal of Biomedicine and BiotechnologyVolume 2012, Article ID 480289, 6 pagesdoi:10.1155/2012/480289 Review Article
Autism Spectrum Disorders: Is Mesenchymal Stem Cell
Personalized Therapy the Future?

Dario Siniscalco,1, 2 Anna Sapone,3, 4 Alessandra Cirillo,5 Catia Giordano,1
Sabatino Maione,1 and Nicola Antonucci6

1 Division of Pharmacology “L. Donatelli”, Department of Experimental Medicine, Second University of Naples, Via S. Maria di Costantinopoli, 16-80138 Napoli, Italy 2 Centre for Autism, La Forza del Silenzio, Caserta, 80138 Naples, Italy3 Department of Internal and Experimental Medicine “Magrassi-Lanzara”, Second University of Naples, 80138 Naples, Italy4 Center for Celiac Research and Mucosal Biology Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, 5 Division of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology “A. Cascino”, Department of Experimental Medicine, Second University of Naples, 6 Biomedical Centre for Autism Research and Treatment, 70122 Bari, Italy Correspondence should be addressed to Dario Siniscalco, [email protected] Received 11 July 2011; Accepted 29 September 2011 Copyright 2012 Dario Siniscalco et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons AttributionLicense, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properlycited.
Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorders. They are enigmatic conditionsthat have their origins in the interaction of genes and environmental factors. ASDs are characterized by dysfunctions in socialinteraction and communication skills, in addition to repetitive and stereotypic verbal and nonverbal behaviours. Immunedysfunction has been confirmed with autistic children. There are no defined mechanisms of pathogenesis or curative therapypresently available. Indeed, ASDs are still untreatable. Available treatments for autism can be divided into behavioural, nutritional,and medical approaches, although no defined standard approach exists. Nowadays, stem cell therapy represents the great promisefor the future of molecular medicine. Among the stem cell population, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show probably bestpotential good results in medical research. Due to the particular immune and neural dysregulation observed in ASDs, mesenchymalstem cell transplantation could offer a unique tool to provide better resolution for this disease.
1. Autism Spectrum Disorders
of ASDs is unknown, likely it results from a complex combi-nation of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors Autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are heteroge- [5, 6]. This heritable disorder derives from genetic variations neous neurodevelopmental disorders [1]. They are enigmatic in multiple genes [7], making its treatment particularly conditions that have their origins in the interaction of difficult. Environment (i.e., air pollution, organophosphates, genes and environmental factors. ASDs are characterized by and heavy metals) also contributes to the incidence of ASDs dysfunctions in social interaction and communication skills, in addition to repetitive and stereotypic verbal and nonverbal Frequency of these disorders is increasing: 56% reported behaviours [2, 3]. Several biochemical events are associ- increase in paediatric prevalence between 1991 and 1997 ated with ASDs: oxidative stress; endoplasmic reticulum [9] until present rates of about 60 cases per 10,000 chil- stress; decreased methylation capacity; limited production dren, according to Center for Disease Control [10, 11].
of glutathione; mitochondrial dysfunction; intestinal dysbio- ASDs are increasingly being recognized as a public health sis; increased toxic metal burden; immune dysregulation; problem [12]. Pathophysiology and defined mechanisms of immune activation of neuroglial cells [4]. The exact aetiology pathogenesis of autism remain still unclear. There are no drugs effective for treatment of core symptoms of ASDs surface of dishes when maintained in standard culture [10]. Indeed, ASDs are still untreatable. Current available conditions; (2) express cytospecific cell surface markers, that treatments for autism can be divided into behavioural, is, CD105, CD90, and CD73, to be negative for other cell nutritional, and pharmacological options, in addition to surface markers, that is, CD45, CD34, CD14, and CD11b; individual and family psychotherapy and other nonphar- (3) possess the capacity to differentiate into mesenchymal macologic interventions [13]. However, no defined stan- lineages, under appropriate in vitro conditions [37]. MSCs dard approach exists [14]. Pharmacological approaches are can be isolated from different tissues other than bone direct towards neuropsychiatric disorders coassociated with marrow: adipose tissue, liver, tendons, synovial membrane, ASDs. Psycho-stimulants, alpha-2 agonists, beta blockers, amniotic fluid, placenta, umbilical cord, and teeth. MSCs lithium, anticonvulsant mood stabilizers, atypical antipsy- show a high expansion potential, genetic stability, stable chotics, traditional antipsychotics, selective serotonin reup- phenotype, high proliferation rate as adherent cells, and take inhibitors, antidepressants, and antipsychotics, are self-renew capacity and can be easily collected and shipped drugs commonly prescribed [14–16]. Catatonia is treated from the laboratory to the bedside and are compatible with with lorazepam and bilateral electroconvulsive therapy [17].
different delivery methods and formulations [38, 39]. In Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are prescribed for the addition, MSCs have two other extraordinary properties: treatment of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive they are able to migrate to sites of tissue injury, where they are able to inhibit the release of proinflammatory cytokines Other nonpsychotropic drugs which are supported by and have strong immunosuppressive activity that renders at least 1 or 2 prospective randomized controlled trials or them a useful tool for successful autologous, as well as 1 systematic review include melatonin, acetylcholinesterase heterologous, transplantations without requiring pharma- inhibitors, naltrexone, carnitine, tetrahydrobiopterin, vita- cological immunosuppression [40–43]. Besides, MSCs are min C, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, immunomodulation easily isolated from a small aspirate of bone marrow and and anti-inflammatory treatments, oxytocin, and even music expanded with high efficiency [44]. Given that MSCs are multipotent cells with a number of potential therapeutic Alternative and complementary treatments, not suffi- applications, and they represent a future powerful tool in ciently supported by medical literature, include herbal reme- regenerative medicine, including ASDs. Mesenchymal stem dies, vitamin and mineral therapies, piracetam, elimina- cells could be transplanted directly without genetic modifi- tion diets, chelation, cyproheptadine, famotidine, glutamate cation or pretreatments. They simply eventually differentiate antagonists, special dietary supplements, acupuncture, neu- according to cues from the surrounding tissues and do rofeedback, and sensory integration training [14, 19, 20]. On not give uncontrollable growth or tumours. In clinical the other hand, behavioural treatment could represent the application, there is no problem with immune rejection effective intervention strategy for autism [21–23]. A plethora because of their in vivo immunosuppressive properties [45, of behavioural strategies and social skill trainings have been 46]. In addition, MSCs can readily be isolated from the used [24–26]. However, it has been demonstrated that no patients requiring transplant or from their parents. There is definitive behavioural intervention completely improves all also no tumour formation on transplantation [47]. No moral symptoms for all ASD patients [27, 28].
objection or ethical controversies are involved [48].
Summarizing, all these therapies indicate that further In principle, mesenchymal stem cells can act through research is needed to better address treatment of several several possible mechanisms, that is, stimulating the plastic medical conditions experienced by ASD patients [29].
response in the host damaged tissue, secreting survival-promoting growth factors, restoring synaptic transmitterrelease by providing local reinnervations, integrating into 2. Mesenchymal Stem Cells
existing neural and synaptic network, and reestablishingfunctional afferent and efferent connections [49]. Since Nowadays, stem cell therapy represents the great promise MSCs have the capability to produce a large array of for the future of molecular medicine. The progression of trophic and growth factors both in vivo and in vitro. (MSCs several diseases can be slowed or even blocked by stem cell constitutively secrete interleukins (IL)-6, IL-7, IL-8, IL-11, IL-12, IL-14, IL-15, macrophage colony-stimulating factor, Among the stem cell population, mesenchymal stem cells Flt-3 ligand, and stem-cell factor [50]). A more reasonable (MSCs) show probably best potential good results in medical explanation for the functional benefit derived from MSC research [31–33]. These cells are nonhematopoietic stem cells transplantation is their paracrine activity, by which these having a multilineage potential, as they have the capacity of cells are able to produce factors that activate endogenous differentiating into both mesenchymal and nonmesenchymal restorative mechanisms within injured tissues contributing lineages. MSCs are a population of progenitor cells of meso- to recovery of function lost as a result of lesions [49, 51].
dermal origin found principally in the bone marrow ofadults, giving rise to skeletal muscle cells, blood, fat, vascular, 3. Autism, Personalized Therapy through
and urogenital systems, and to connective tissues throughout Mesenchymal Stem Cells
the body [34–36]. According to the International Societyof Cellular Therapy, MSCs are defined by the following MSCs have a strong long-lasting immunosuppressive capac- minimal set of criteria: (1) grown in adherence to plastic ity [52]. This extraordinary property is mediated via soluble Anti-inflammatory cytokines overproduction (IL-10) and IL-1β, TNF-α, and Figure 1: Paracrine and immunomodulatory effects as possible mechanisms of action of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in autism spectrumdisorder (ASD) treatment. In humans, ASDs are associated with immune alterations and pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e., IL-1β) over-production. These cytokines are able to trigger pro-inflammatory cellular events. Data from in vitro models show that MSCs are able to affectnot only T cells, but also other cells of the immune system (i.e., NK cells). Immunoregulatory properties of MSCs are through secretionof large amounts of several bioactive molecules (paracrine activity), that is, PGE-2, IL-10. These molecules cause the inhibition or theunresponsiveness of T-cell mediated responses.
factors. MSCs are able to inhibit the proliferation of CD8+ It has been demonstrated that in postmortem brains and CD4+ T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells, from ASD patients there is evidence of abnormal functioning to suppress the immunoglobulin production by plasma and cerebellum alterations [61–63]. Indeed, ASD subjects cells, to inhibit the maturation of dendritic cells (DCs) show a decreased number of Purkinje cells in the cere- and the proliferation of regulatory T cells [53]. It has bellum [64]. These changes could reflect defective cortical been demonstrated that MSCs are also able to inhibit T organization in ASDs development. In addition, autism is lymphocyte pro-inflammatory cytokine production in vitro associated with dysregulation in the maturation and plas- [54, 55], as well as in vivo [56]. Their ability to modulate ticity of dendritic spine morphology [65]. Restoring injured the immune system opens a wide range of cell-mediated brain functioning could be achieved by stem-cell-based cell applications, not only for autoimmune diseases and graft- replacement [66]. Indeed, transplanted MSCs are able to versus-host disease. Due to the particular immune system promote synaptic plasticity and functional recovery and dysregulation observed in ASDs [57, 58], mesenchymal stem rescue cerebellar Purkinje cells [67, 68]. Challenging newest cell transplantation could offer a unique tool to provide study from Deng et al. suggests that granulocyte colony- better resolution for this disease. Indeed, in ASDs patho- stimulating factor (G-CSF) is able to mobilize MSCs into genesis, innate and adaptive immunity changes have been peripheral blood. These mobilized MSCs are incorporated reported [59]. ASD patients show an imbalance in CD3+, and integrate into damaged brain in craniocerebral injured CD4+, and CD8+ T cells, as well as in NK cells. In addition, mice, ameliorating the effect of trauma [69]. It is noteworthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) extracted from that MSC ability to migrate to the sites of injury and ASD patients are able to overproduce IL-1β resulting in participate in the repair process is a key issue in tissue repair long-term immune alterations [60]. MSC-mediated immune [70]. Also by this way, MSC therapy could restore the altered suppressive activity could restore this immune imbalance brain organization seen in autistic subjects (Table 1).
(Figure 1). Indeed, MSC immunoregulatory effects strongly A key dilemma in stem-cell-based therapy for autism inhibit T-cell recognition and expansion by inhibiting TNF-α treatment is whether endogenous or exogenous MSC admin- and INF-γ production and increasing IL-10 levels [51].
istration is the best way of stem cell delivery. Endogenous Table 1: Potential ameliorative effects mediated by MSCs in ASD [2] K. Williams, D. M. Wheeler, N. Silove, and P. Hazell, “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for autism spectrumdisorders (ASD),” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, ASD-induced changes in human Potential MSC ameliorative roles [3] R. Toro, M. Konyukh, R. Delorme et al., “Key role for gene dosage and synaptic homeostasis in autism spectrum disorders,” Trends in Genetics, vol. 26, no. 8, pp. 363–372, 2010.
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