Environmental Health & Allergy Center and Washington University Conducting Study With Autistic Children

by Nihal S. DeSilva, PhD

and Tipu Sultan, MD

Environmental Health & Allergy Center



AUTISM IN A DISH:  Disease-in-a-dish strategy is used to gain an insight into complex disorder of  autism and other epigenetic diseases.

In an earlier article ( September, 2010) we indicated to you the importance of the concept of epigenesis in preventive medicine. In fact environmental health signals and epigenome may top all other forms of preventive care. Early detection of epigenetic changes in preventive medicine require that we demonstrate certain disease biomarkers in cells and through Raman spectroscopy which pinpoints chemical changes in these cells. By using such methods we hope to understand living human cells in action. We consider this a promising new approach that may revolutionize the study and treatment of  conditions such as autism (ASD) & other epigenetic diseases. Our experimental approach will be take skin cells or buccal epithelial cells from autistic and healthy control children and grow them in cell culture, and study their mitochondrial metabolism. By simulating the conditions in living body, the resulting epithelial cells from the skin or buccal mucosa may give us the real-time glimpse of the autistic condition  compared to controls at the cellular and biochemical levels.This project also has the potential to convert the human skin cells to adult stem cells or directly into neurons (brain), thus deciphering the involvement of the brain in the autistic condition. This is a very excitng project at EHAC-StLouis.

We hope to obtain the interest and consent of all St. Louisians in this study which is as follows:




Environmental Health & Allergy Center in collaboration with Washington University is conducting a study of mitochondrial function in developmental delay/ autistic (ASD) children. Mitochondria are small cellular structures where energy is generated for the body. Their function is linked to the autistic condition. Our procedure is very simple and as follows:  A child is given a normal saline solution to wash his/her mouth. Following this, a sample of cells are extracted carefully from the buccal mucosa using the sterile procedure. The extracted cells are transferred directly into sterile cell culture medium and grown for 7-10 days in an incubator. The mitochondrial function of the cell explant from autistic and control children to generate energy will be measured using a specific analyzer. We hope to see differences in the metabolism of mitochondrial  oxidative phos-phorylation ( OXPHOS),etc in autistic children compared to healthy control children. We hope this approach will eventually improve present therapeutic approaches to autism (ASD) such as diet and drug treatments.

NOTE:  We are encouraging parents of ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) children to contact our Clinic,  The Environmental Health & Allergy Center  (314- 921-5600) and request to be enrolled in this study. There is No charge for the study and this is Not a drug company sponsored study.