Efforts to identify the causes of autism spectrum disorders have highlighted the importance of both genetics and environment, but the lack of human models for many of these disorders limits researchers' attempts to understand the mechanisms of disease and to develop new treatments. Induced pluripotent stem cells offer the opportunity to study specific genetic and environmental risk factors, but the heterogeneity of donor genetics may obscure important findings. Diseases associated with unusually high rates of autism, such as SCN2A syndromes, provide an opportunity to study specific mutations with high effect sizes in a human genetic context and may reveal biological insights applicable to more common forms of autism. Loss-of-function mutations in the SCN2A gene, which encodes the voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.2, are associated with autism rates up to 50%. Here, we review the findings from experimental models of SCN2A syndromes, including mouse and human cell studies, highlighting the potential role for patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell technology to identify the molecular and cellular substrates of autism.
Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Cell model; Induced pluripotent stem cell; NaV1.2; Organoid; SCN2A; SCN2A syndrome; Sodium channel.