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

Thinking differently about neurodevelopmental disorders and autism: Lumping vs. splitting

Evdokia Anagnostou, M.D.Assistant Director, Bloorview Research Institute
Child Neurologist and Senior Clinician Scientist, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto

On September 26, 2018, Evdokia Anagnostou will discuss the challenge of rethinking classification systems and diagnostic labels for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders in light of recent findings from research and clinical studies.

Autism genetics: Where have we been and where are we going?

Matthew State, M.D., Ph.D.Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor and Chair, University of California, San Francisco

On April 10, 2018, Matthew State reviewed the progress that has been made in autism genetics over the past 10 years and the role that the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC) played in this (r)evolution. He also addressed the potential contribution of ongoing genomic studies including whole-genome sequencing as well as the challenges and opportunities of leveraging the genetic findings to identify pathophysiological mechanisms.

On the road to precision health: Brain-based biomarkers in autism spectrum disorder

Shafali Spurling Jeste, M.D.Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Neurology and Pediatrics, University of California, Los Angeles
Director, Developmental Neurophysiology Lab, Center for Autism Research and Treatment, University of California, Los Angeles

On 7 February 2018, Shafali Spurling Jeste provided a topical overview of the current state of research in autism biomarkers. She shared data from studies of autism biomarkers in three key areas: early risk prediction (studies of high-risk infants), heterogeneity within the autism spectrum and genetically defined subgroups within autism. Finally, she discussed the challenges around clinical trial design and development and considered how more objective measures of brain function can improve clinical trials.

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