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Jennie Close, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist


Jennie Close joined the Allen Institute in 2011. As part of the molecular networks program, she works closely with the cell biology and genome engineering teams to develop protocols to generate cortical inhibitory interneurons from human cells in vitro. Close is also developing methods to co-culture excitatory pyramidal neurons and interneurons in traditional two-dimensional, as well as more novel three-dimensional cultures, in order to generate more mature neuronal cell types. In her previous work, Close characterized the molecular and temporal aspects of GABAergic interneuron specification and differentiation as a postdoctoral fellow at New York University. She received a Ph.D. in 2005 in neurobiology and behavior from the University of Washington, where she discovered a role for TGF beta superfamily members in the proliferation of retinal progenitors and glia.

Research Focus:

 In order to truly understand what makes the human brain unique, as well as what can go wrong in disease states, we need to develop methods for studying human neurons and neuronal progenitors in vitro. This will provide us with an invaluable tool by which we can recapitulate development, recreate circuits, and engineer models designed to illuminate the role played by each brain cell type. The brain is composed of a dazzling array of cell types, which interact with each other in a variety of ways. In recent years, the loss or malfunction of inhibitory interneurons has been shown to be involved in a number of disorders, including epilepsy, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders. My ultimate goals are: 1) to provide a reliable source of inhibitory interneurons of all subtypes for systems biology experiments; 2) to further our understanding of the differentiation and functional role of interneurons through in vitro molecular characterization and 3) to recapitulate human cortical circuits in vitro for use in molecular, imaging and electrophysiological experiments. Building on my previous work in neuronal specification and differentiation, my role at the Allen Institute is to generate brain cell types found in the human brain from progenitor cells such as induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs). Once the protocols for generating the most important cell types in the brain are established, the molecular networks team will use these cells to assay the molecular events that characterize the differentiation of specific human neuronal populations. This information will be invaluable for comparison with neurons generated from IPSCs derived from individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders, yielding clues to the mechanisms and potential treatments for these disorders.


  • Developmental neuroscience

  • Molecular biology

  • Cell biology

  • Neuroscience

Research Programs

  • Molecular networks

Science Programs at Allen Institute