Front Mol Neurosci. 2022 Jan 4;14:787243. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2021.787243. eCollection 2021.
Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are a collection of diseases with early life onset that often present with developmental delay, cognitive deficits, and behavioral conditions. In some cases, severe outcomes such as brain malformations and intractable epilepsy can occur. The mutations underlying NDDs may be inherited or de novo, can be gain- or loss-of-function, and can affect one or more genes. Recent evidence indicates that brain somatic mutations contribute to several NDDs, in particular malformations of cortical development. While advances in sequencing technologies have enabled the detection of these somatic mutations, the mechanisms by which they alter brain development and function are not well understood due to limited model systems that recapitulate these events. Human brain organoids have emerged as powerful models to study the early developmental events of the human brain. Brain organoids capture the developmental progression of the human brain and contain human-enriched progenitor cell types. Advances in human stem cell and genome engineering provide an opportunity to model NDD-associated somatic mutations in brain organoids. These organoids can be tracked throughout development to understand the impact of somatic mutations on early human brain development and function. In this review, we discuss recent evidence that somatic mutations occur in the developing human brain, that they can lead to NDDs, and discuss how they could be modeled using human brain organoids.