Propionic acid (PPA) is a short chain fatty acid that is produced by the human gut microbiome. Propionate, butyrate and acetates are the end products of the fermentation of the complex carbohydrates by human gut friendly microbiome and are being used as sources of energy in our body. PPA is used as a food preservative against molds in various daily products and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of autism. In a recent study we showed that PPA in human neuronal stem cell (NSC) culture increases the astrocyte population and decreases the neuronal number and increases the inflammatory cytokines. In this study, we investigated the potential effects of a propionic acid-derivative, Ibuprofen, a member of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on neural stem cells proliferation and differentiation in vitro. Ibuprofen is an over counter drug that is used for alleviating pain, headache, and fever. To examine the effect of ibuprofen on developing brain we used human NSC in vitro, exposed them to increasing concentrations of ibuprofen, and investigated neural proliferation and differentiation. Here we show that NSAIDs, not at therapeutic, but very high concentrations cause an imbalance in NSC differentiation towards glial cells, therefore causing astrogliosis seen in some cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Furthermore, upon removal of Ibuprofen, inflammatory cytokines; TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-10, significantly increase (p < 0.05) in cells previously exposed to NSAIDs compared to control. Therefore, we are speculating that if such drugs were to be taken in the circumstances of a developing child during the early trimesters of pregnancy, this could result in increased glial:neuron ratio leading to lifelong impediments. Based on the current study our recommendation is to avoid high doses of propionic acid derivatives such as ibuprofen during pregnancy.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Naser, Saleh


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date