Neuro-immune Interactions in Autism Spectrum Disorder

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This research group focuses on the crosstalk between the nervous system and the peripheral immune system in autism. Despite the numerous reports on immune abnormality in the circulating blood in autism, the major questions that remain are:

What causes immune abnormality in the blood in autism?. What is the functional relevance of these abnormal immune factors to the autism disorder?

In order to tackle these questions, the group uses a multidisciplinary approach in studying autism, in which human subjects with autism and their matching controls are recruited, and data is collected and integrated from the fields of psychology, medical history, immunology, genomics, and neurosciences. Some of the research techniques used in the lab for the analysis of human blood samples include flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, proteomics, and transcriptomics. This is in addition to functional studies in which patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are generated and converted into brain-specific cells to further understand the disease mechanisms in cell culture models. The ultimate goal of this group is to understand the underlying cause of immune dysfunction in autism and to confirm their functional relevance to the disorder as a future target for autism therapy.

Latest Publications

  • Abeer R. Al-Shammari, Sanjeev K. Bhardwaj, Ksenia Musaelyan, Lalit K. Srivastava, and Francis G. Szele (2018). Schizophrenia-related dysbindin-1 gene is required for innate immune response and homeostasis in the developing subventricular zone. NPJ Schizophrenia. doi: 10.1038/s41537-018-0057-5.
  • Chiara Bardella*, Abeer R. Al-Shammari*, Luana Soares*, Ian Tomlinson, O'Neill Eric, and Francis G. Szele (2018). The role of inflammation in subventricular zone cancer. Progress in Neurobiology. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2018.04.007. *First co-author
  • Abdul Manaph, N. P., Ltaief, S., Al-Shammari, A. R. and Khattak, S. (2019). Brain organoids as a model to decipher autism spectrum disorder in Qatari population. Cell Symposia Proceedings: Engineering Organoids and Organs. August 25-27, 2019. San Diego, CA, USA.
  • Bhardwaj, S., Al-Shammari, A., Zehntner, S.P., Grand’Maison, M., Mathieu, A., Courcot, B., Bedell, B.J., Szele, F.G. and Srivastava, L.K. (2013). Neonatal immune activation induced changes in brain volume, neurogenesis and behavior in mice - moderation by dysbindin-1 gene. Society of Neuroscience SFN Proceedings: 2013-S-13366-SfN. San Diego, California.
  • Al-Shammari, A., Bhardwaj, S., Srivastava, L. and Szele, F.G. (2013). Combining neonatal stress with a null mutation in schizophrenia susceptibility gene, dysbindin-1, is required for phenotypic changes in adulthood. Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol., BIOSP 06. DOI: 10.5339/qfarf.2013.BIOSP-06. Doha, Qatar.
  • Al-Shammari, A. and Jacob, T. (2010). Signature changes in human brain wave activity associated with olfactory learning. Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings: Vol., BMPS8. DOI: 10.5339/qfarf.2010.bmps8. Doha, Qatar.