"Using stem cell-derived neurons and organoids to study neurodevelopment disorders"
ABSTRACT Human brain development is a highly sophisticated, multi-step, process occurring across a protracted time period. Neurodevelopmental disorders, including major neuropsychiatric disorders, arise when critical stages in brain development are perturbed. Animal models and conventional cell-based models have contributed tremendously to the identification and understanding of genes and signaling pathways involved in normal brain development and, when perturbed, in neurodevelopmental disorders. Nevertheless, these models do not fully recapitulate critical stages of human brain development and anomalies in associated disorders. Arrival of stem cell-based methods to derive human neurons and brain organoids has allowed us to study brain development in human context, circumventing some of the limitations. Combing these methods with existing strategies overcomes limitations inherent to each and provides a powerful tool to study and enhance our understanding of underlying processes. Here, I will share how we have combined some of these approaches to examine mechanisms of brain development as well as neurodevelopmental disorders.
BIO John Jia En Chua is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Healthy Longevity Translational Research Program at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. He is also a Joint Principal Investigator of the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and Principle Investigator at the Institute for Health Innovation and Technology.
John obtained his PhD at the University of Hamburg (Germany) where he worked on postsynaptic translational regulation and dendritic mRNA binding proteins. He did his postdoctoral training with Reinhard Jahn at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, where he studied the composition and organization of protein complexes involved in presynaptic function. He was subsequently appointed a Research Group Leader at the Institute and a faculty member of the Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences, Biophysics, and Molecular Biosciences (GGNB). In 2015, he joined the Department of Physiology at NUS as an Assistant Professor and IMCB as a joint PI.
John’s group combines molecular, biochemical, imaging, -omics, human stem cell and model organism technologies to elucidate proteins and biological pathways involved in neuronal network formation during brain development as well as in neurodegenerative conditions. Recent work from the group uncovered new insights into how guidance cue signalling coordinates with synaptic protein trafficking during neuronal network development, and how new potential AD biomarkers contribute to neuronal cell death in response to Ab.
John is a member of the SynGO consortium – an international collaboration of leading synaptic biologists dedicated to building an over-arching framework for the curation, analyses and generation of experimental data for the advancement of synaptic research in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. He was recently awarded the National University of Singapore, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Faculty Research Excellence Award.