Overview of Our Research
Our research aims to understand the mechanisms that underlie neurological disorders and develop personalized therapeutic approaches for patients. We use patient-specific stem cells to recreate diseases in a dish. Through our collaboration with our industry partners we develop physiological human models, that faithfully mimic the biology of the human body.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are stem cells that can be generated directly from any somatic (adult) cells. iPSCs hold promise in the field of Regenerative Medicine since they can proliferate indefinitely, as well as give rise to every cell type of the body (neurons, heart, pancreatic, liver cells etc), they represent a single source of cells that could be used to replace those lost to damage or disease.
Since iPSCs can be derived directly from adult tissues, they not only bypass the need for embryos, but can be made in a patient-matched manner, which means that each individual could have their own stem cells.
iPSCs can be used for: 1. Disease modelling: Since iPSCs can be derived from any person, and since they contain the same genetic cargo as the individual they were generated from, they can be differentiated into disease-relevant cells and create a personalized disease-in-a-dish model. 2. Regenerative Medicine: Since iPSCs are derived from an individual, they can be differentiated into any cell type that may be absent or damaged and re-transplanted in the patient, with reduced innate complications.
The Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)
The blood brain barrier (BBB) is a highly selective barrier that shields the central nervous system (CNS) from endogenous and exogenous factors circulating in the blood that could disrupt delicate brain functioning. The BBB is formed as a multicellular neurovascular unit (NVU) in which neural cells come in direct contact with endothelial cells. This fine-tuned cellular architecture permits the blood-to-CNS passage of crucial nutrients and metabolic molecules while prohibiting the transport of factors deleterious to brain function and most drugs.
Bio-engineered models to improve human research
Traditional culture systems fail to represent the complexity of our physiology. The solution to some of these problems lies in microfluidic devices, also known as organs-on-chip or microphysiological devices that provide 3D multicellular architectures and can mimic tissue-tissue interfaces, physicochemical microenvironments and vascular perfusion of the body, giving levels of tissue and organ functionality not attainable with conventional 2D or 3D culture systems. In collaboration with our commercial partners we bioengineered a platform of the human BBB, specifically designed for predictive personalized medicine, which we can now use to study the role of the BBB in neurological diseases.