Identifying and Inducing Hallmarks of Maturity in Human Neurons

An obstacle to creating useful pluripotent stem cells is purity, since it is nearly impossible to create pure populations of particular subtypes of neurons or glia, and those that are generated are more similar to those found during early fetal development as opposed to the cells that are needed clinically. Lowry and Plath have devised a model system to isolate and identify very specific types of neurons, which they can use to create neurons that are more like those found in the adult nervous system. These particular types of neurons are thought to be dysfunctional in various disorders including autism, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, so increased knowledge of these specific neurons could dramatically facilitate the study and eventual treatment of these devastating disorders.

Affiliated Investigators

William Lowry, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Lowry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California-Los Angeles. His research focus is in modeling development and disease. A primary focus interest of this work is to understand the diversity and maturation process of human interneurons made in vitro.

Kathrin Plath, Ph.D.

University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Kathrin Plath is a Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at the University of California Los Angeles. Her research is directed at understanding the fundamental mechanisms that determine gene expression changes during cell fate transitions with a particular focus on enhancer utilization and the role of long-noncoding RNAs. A main interest of this work is to use enhancer signatures to define the diversity and maturation of specific classes of neurons. Dr. Plath also serves on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.