Our lab is using pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate brain cells in the lab. Because the brain is a 3D structure and studying cells growing on a plate doesn't recapitulate its complexity, we are using human iPSCs to generate functional 3D structures that are patterned to mirror specific regions of the human brain. We can culture these 'organoids' for long periods of time to ask how normal brain development is occurring in a human system.
We are pursuing several big picture topics in our laboratory. First, how does cellular diversity arise during nervous system development? Second, can we engineer approaches to better pattern organoids with more sophisticated properties? To answer these questions, we are using state-of-the-art genome engineering, stem cell biology, imaging, and neurobiological approaches. Our goal is to build better models of human brain development to enhance our understanding of fundamental principles of neurobiology, and to also provide access to questions about how development is altered in neurodevelopmental disorders.