Spring 2013 John H. Tietze Scientist Research Awards

The John H. Tietze Stem Cell Scientist Award is a one year award of $25,000 to support the research of any FACULTY member of ISCRM who is pursuing novel preliminary experiments, where the grant might provide sufficient stimulus to enable the research to advance to the point of being competitive for external funding. The research should involve or be relevant to some aspect of stem or progenitor cell biology or therapies.

Dr. David Mack

David L. Mack, PhD

Assistant Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine
University of Washington School of Medicine

Mack Abstract:
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have a hidden ailment that accounts for the majority of the day-to-day discomfort in patients suffering from this disease. Namely, they are often constipated, and for long periods of time. It is believed that the same neural defect that causes cognitive impairment also causes decreased function of the nerves controlling the intestines. We propose to study the problem of decreased gut motility in autistic children by reprogramming cells from urine into induced pluripotent stem cells (cells that behave like embryonic stem cells). From those patient-specific stem cells we will generate enteric neurons and compare them to those from the patient’s normal siblings. Scientists over the years have developed a powerful set of tools for studying the function of neurons in culture. We hope to take advantage of those tools to find a difference between ASD and normal enteric neurons. Once the root defect has been identified, we can then screen for drugs that can correct the defect in the dish. Drugs identified in this way have a high likelihood of working in patients because the patients’ own cells were used to discover the drug.