Next invited speaker : Juergen A. Knoblich Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA), Austria
“Using cerebral organoids to discover human-specific mechanisms of brain development“
The human brain is unique in size and complexity, but also the source of some of the most devastating human diseases. While many of these disorders have been successfully studied in model organisms, recent experiments have emphasized unique features that can not easily be modeled in animals. We use cerebral organoids to recapitulate those features in vitro and to test their role in human disease.
Cerebral organoids derived from patients suffering from neuro-developmental disease can recapitulate the developmental defects leading to those diseases and allow us to disentangle the mechanistic complexity of disorders like Epilepsy and Autism. Our new data demonstrate that by studying those defects, we can gain unique insights into the development of the human cortex that cannot be made in rodent model organisms.
Juergen Knoblich is heading the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna. He is a developmental neuroscientist studying human brain development and psychiatric disorders. Knoblich started his scientific career as a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute in Tübingen where he worked on cell cycle control in Drosophila under the guidance of Christian Lehner. In 1994, he moved to San Francisco to join the laboratory of Yuh Nung and Lily Jan as a postdoc. There he discovered his interest in asymmetric cell division, a topic that has remained the main focus of his research ever since. His laboratory is interested in the biology of neural stem cells. In the fruit fly, they have identified the molecular mechanism that allows neural stem cells to segregate protein determinants into only one daughter cell during mitosis and to divide asymmetrically. They have demonstrated that defects in this mechanism lead to brain tumor formation. More recently, they have established a 3D culture system that recapitulates the early steps of human brain development in cell culture allowing brain pathologies and human specific developmental events to be studied in unprecedented detail. In particular, they have used this system for modelling microcephaly thereby demonstrating for the first time that human neurodevelopmental disorders can be studied in 3D culture.
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