Understanding autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders: From the embryo to brain organoids

  • Autism Research
Speaker Paola Arlotta, Ph.D.
Harvard University
Date & Time


Location

Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010 United States

Autism Research

Autism Research lectures bring together scientists and scholars to discuss diverse and important topics related to autism. The lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

Video replay of this event will be available shortly. Please check back at a later date.

On 1 November 2017, Paola Arlotta focused on the cerebral cortex and presented the challenges and opportunities of modeling human brain development using pluripotent stem cells within 3D human brain organoids. Building on developmental work in mice, such organoids promise a better understanding of complex neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.

Her talk was part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

About the Lecture

The cellular and molecular processes that control brain development in mammals, as well as how neurodevelopmental disorders affect such processes, remain poorly understood. The recent advent of brain organoids (lab-grown clusters of living neurons) offers new ways to study the relationships between neurodevelopmental disorders and brain development.

In this lecture, Paola Arlotta focused on the cerebral cortex and presented the challenges and opportunities of modeling human brain development using pluripotent stem cells within 3D human brain organoids. Building on developmental work in mice, such organoids promise a better understanding of complex neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder. She discussed her recent work on the generation and long-term development of human brain organoids and the study of their developmental trajectories, cellular diversities and neuronal network features.

Arlotta then showed that phenotypic abnormalities observed in patients carrying genetic mutations linked to autism spectrum disorder can be reproduced within brain organoids. This work serves as a proof-of-principle demonstration that selected aspects of human neurodevelopmental conditions can be modeled in vitro with the goal of better understanding disease genetics and pathology.

About the Speaker

Paola Arlotta is a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University. She is a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, where she is co-director of the neuroscience program, an institute member at the Broad Institute, and an associate member of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute. She is interested in understanding the molecular laws that govern the birth, differentiation and assembly of the human brain’s cerebral cortex. The complexity of the brain fascinates her and she is driven to integrate developmental and evolutionary knowledge to investigate therapies for brain repair and for modeling neuropsychiatric disease. Arlotta received her M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Trieste, Italy, and her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. She subsequently completed her postdoctoral training in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.

Past Lectures

Altered somatosensory processing in autism spectrum disorders: Mechanisms and emerging therapeutic opportunities

David Ginty, Ph.D.Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard University

On April 24, 2019, David Ginty presented his work on the neurobiological basis of touch over-reactivity in mouse models of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). He also discussed new pharmacological approaches aimed at reducing sensory over-reactivity and potentially improving cognitive and behavioral abnormalities associated with ASD.

Mapping human cerebral cortex: Structure, function, connectivity, development and evolution

David Van Essen, Ph.D.Alumni Endowed Professor, Washington University in St. Louis

On April 3, 2019, David Van Essen provided an overview of basic principles of cortical organization and connectivity from studies of laboratory animals and analyses of individual variability in humans. He also highlighted a new map (‘parcellation’) of the human cerebral cortex based on data from the Human Connectome Project.

The genetic influences on autism spectrum disorder risk

Elise Robinson, Sc.D.Assistant Professor, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Associate Member, Broad Institute

On January 30, 2019, Elise Robinson provided an overview of the role that genetic factors play in autism spectrum disorders and discussed the next steps to further understand autism genetics.

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