Analyzing brain stem cells of patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Rutgers scientists have found evidence of irregularities in very early brain development that may contribute to the neuropsychiatric disorder. The findings support a concept scientists have long suspected: ASD arises early in fetal development during the period when brain stem cells divide to form the elements of a functioning brain. Writing in the journal Stem Cell Reports, Rutgers scientists examined brain stem cells – known as neural precursor cells (NPCs) – of patients with ASD. They found the NPCs – responsible for producing the three main kinds of brain cells: neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes – either overproduced or underproduced the number of permanent brain cells. To read the full story.