Where does consciousness come from? Can we cure autism? Can we grow a human BRAIN in Space? Dr. Alysson Muotri joins me to discuss all these fascinating questions and more.
Brain organoids are lab-grown minibrains that mimic structural and functional features of full-size brains. They are created by culturing pluripotent stem cells in a three-dimensional rotational bioreactor, and they develop over a course of months. Brain organoids have emerged as novel model systems that can be used to investigate human brain development and disorders34, as well as evolutionary studies and neural network research
Muotri is a Professor at the Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego, an Associate Director of CARTA, The Center for Research and Training in Anthropology, and Director of the Stem Cell Program, and of the Archealization Center (ArchC) at UC San Diego.
He moved to the Salk Institute as Pew Latin America Fellow in 2002 for postdoctoral training in the fields of neuroscience and stem cell biology. His research focuses on brain evolution and modeling neurological diseases using human-induced pluripotent stem cells and brain organoids. He has an additional focus on solving one of life's greatest mysteries: What is it that makes us uniquely human? Our unique social brains are one of the key distinguishing factors between humans and other primates. We are even very different from our closest relatives, the Neanderthals.
His work has implications for the generation of human disease models by determining the molecular and cellular mechanisms driving neurological complex disorders, such as autism. It is also creating opportunities for identifying and testing novel therapeutic approaches. Understanding the evolutionary path and the tradeoffs of the modern human brain will likely illuminate the origins of human disease.
Dr. Moutri has received several awards, including the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, NARSAD, Emerald Foundation Young Investigator Award, Surugadai Award, Rock Star of Innovation, NIH EUREKA Award, and two Telly Awards for Excellence in Science Communication.
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