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Modelling the brain to understand schizophrenia

Research awardFellows Award programme

Funding period2014 - 2017

InstitutionStanford University School of Medicine

LocationUnited States of America


Can using stem cells to recreate part of the human brain reveal the causes of schizophrenia?

The project

Understanding what happens in the brain cells of people with mental health conditions could provide vital information about how to identify and treat those problems.

So to simulate and study the ways that cells interact, our researcher, Dr Sergiu Pasca, is using state-of-the-art stem cell technology to recreate parts of a functioning human brain in the lab.


The process

Sergiu and his team are using a new technique for creating 3D cell cultures in lab conditions. This technique creates cells that more closely mimic natural tissues than cells grown in traditional flat petri dishes.

By taking stem cells from people with schizophrenia who have specific genetic mutations, the team can create tiny ‘minibrains’ – each smaller than a pea – that emulate parts of a foetal human brain.

It’s then possible to study the molecular and cellular processes that could contribute to schizophrenia.

The potential

This groundbreaking work could transform our understanding of schizophrenia, potentially leading to therapeutic treatments that target the condition more precisely.

And the potential doesn’t stop there. The work done by Sergiu and his team could have a profound effect on future studies of the way that cells work in all mental health conditions.

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