NYSCF in the News & Research Spotlight

NYSCF Innovator Develops Mature, Diverse Brain "Organoids"
NYSCF Innovator Develops Mature, Diverse Brain
NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Dr. Paola Arlotta and a team of researchers at Harvard University developed protocols to create human brain organoids, organ models cultured from induced pluripotent stem cells, capable of growing and maturing to an unprecedented level. Typical organoids are developed and tested in a matter of weeks. The organoids, reported in Nature, were cultured and matured for nine months or longer.
 
The scientists analyzed gene expression in more than 80,000 cells taken from 31 brain organoids and compared the results to those documented from human brain tissue samples to identify the multitude of different brain cell types displayed in the organoids. These organoids also developed key traits such as spontaneously active neural networks, dendritic spines and light-sensitive cells. 
 
These human brain models enable a next-level platform for neuropsychiatric disease modeling and drug discovery.
 
NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden of MIT Media Lab was also an author on the paper.
 

 

Read more in the Harvard Gazette >>

Read the paper in Nature >>

NYSCF Innovator Improves Revolutionary Imaging Technique
NYSCF Innovator Improves Revolutionary Imaging Technique

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden and his team at MIT Media Lab published their latest work advancing and improving their revolutionary imaging technique: expansion microscopy. The research, published in Nature Methods, describes an advance on standard expansion microscopy, increasing magnification by 20x the sample size. 

The expansion microscopy technique revolutionized imaging by physically expanding biological specimens while maintaining their characteristics and proportions. Standard expansion microscopy begins by embedding and homogenizing a specimen in a dense polymer gel. The specimen is then physically expanded by 4.5x its starting size by swelling the gel. This technique enables scientists to study the biological structures of minute specimens with unheard of clarity, using standard microscopes and magnification. 

The new process, dubbed iterative expansion microscopy, puts the sample through an additional expansion enabling nanometer resolution imaging of cells and tissues on conventional microscopes. 

 

Read the paper in Nature Methods >>

Read the press release in MIT News >>

NYSCF Investigator Unearths Complexity in Brain Navigation System
NYSCF Investigator Unearths Complexity in Brain Navigation System

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Lisa Giocomo and a team at Stanford University published their recent work in Neuron investigating how navigation works in the brain. Grid cells, commonly known as the GPS of the brain, along with border, head direction, and speed cells comprise the four main types of cells in the navigation system in mammalian brains. The scientists found that the navigation system and the cells that comprise it are much more complex and multifaceted than previously assumed. Instead of distinct cell types, they found that many cells displayed characteristics of multiple cell types and even the flexibility to display traits of one type followed by the traits of another. 

This work upends the assumption that our navigational brain function can be mapped with a mathematical model. Much more research is needed to fully understand the navigation process, including a fundamental reassessment of the mechanisms in play. 

 

Read the paper in Neuron >>

Read the press release from Stanford News >>

NYSCF Innovator Describes Potential Cell Replacement Strategy for Parkinson's Disease
NYSCF Innovator Describes Potential Cell Replacement Strategy for Parkinson's Disease
The traditional cell replacement therapy model relies on manufacturing the relevant cell type in the lab and injecting or replacing these cells into the patient, curing or treating their disease. NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus and NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Dr. Marius Wernig and his team at Stanford University explored a new method of potential cell replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease in their latest Nature Biotechnology paper. The researchers explored directly converting astrocytes, a different type of brain cell, into the dopaminergic neurons lost in Parkinson's disease. Testing their theory in a dish using human cells, and in a mouse model directly, the scientists found that this approach is theoretically possible, including improvements seen in the mouse models. 
 
This type of research represents a potential breakthrough in cell replacement therapies, introducing a technique in which cell replacement may be achieved through gene therapy instead of whole cell replacement. 

 

Read the paper in Nature Biotechnology >>

NYSCF Innovator Shows Nerve Cells Resist Transforming Into Other Cell Types
NYSCF Innovator Shows Nerve Cells Resist Transforming Into Other Cell Types

NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus and NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Dr. Marius Wernig of Stanford University published exciting results showing that nerve cells actively repress transforming into alternate cell states. The research, published in Nature, describes how nerve cells use a powerful repressor protein - Myt1l - to actively maintain their identity, suppressing the expression of genes associated with non-neuronal cell types, including skin, heart, lung, cartilage and liver. 

This research is critically important for scientists trying to understand the minutia of the life cycle and function of nerves and neurons. Understanding these cells throughout their entire developmental cycle may lead to new treatments or cures for diseases caused by neuron death or dysfunction, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease among many others.

 

Read the paper in Nature >>

Read the press release on EurekAlert >>

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