Functional Human Brain Models of Disease
Our lab is primarily focused on the development of new approaches for studying human brain development and for uncovering the mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders. To achieve this, we derive induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPS cells) from patients and we have pioneered approaches for deriving neural cell types in vitro.
We are pursuing questions in at least two major inter-related areas:
First, we are interested in understanding human brain development, and in particular deciphering what makes it unique. We have developed methods for generating from hiPS cells a tridimensional (3D) preparation resembling the human cerebral cortex, named cortical spheroids or hCSs (Nature Methods). These hCSs contain functional synapses, non-reactive astrocytes and can be sliced for electrophysiological recordings. More recently, we have introduced methods for obtaining other human brain regions in 3D, and pioneered a novel modular approach for assembling them into forebrain circuits that enables interneuron migration and functional integration (Nature). We are actively working on modeling in vitro other brain inter-regional interactions (see also our Cell Cinema gallery and an NIH video material explaining our work).
Second, we are using state-of-the-art stem cell biology, genome engineering and neurobiology approaches in combination with high-throughput in vitro assays to identify specific cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying developmental neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia. Our ultimate objective is to identify novel and reliable drug targets.