Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain Through Stem Cell Research

Inside a lab at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, researchers are doing something truly remarkable. They are growing tiny versions of developing human brains in order to study everything from Alzheimer’s disease to the Zika virus. Alysson Muotri is the co-director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program and leads the team researching brain organoids. He recently sat down with Dr. David Granet on Health Matters to discuss the endless possibilities of his research.

Muotri’s organoids are often referred to as “mini-brains,” but they are far from what that name might suggest. The organoids are grown from stem cells, which are harvested from living tissue, such as skin cells. Researchers give those stem cells instructions to become neural cells. Eventually they form tiny clusters of neural cells, about the size of a pea. Those clusters have been shown to exhibit some of the same characteristics of developing human brains, including firing electrical signals in specific patterns. But, the organoids do not contain every type of brain tissue, and have no vascularization.

Despite the differences with the human brain, organoids have proven useful in understanding and treating disease. One of the major successes of Muotri’s research was finding and testing an existing drug to treat mothers infected with Zika virus. The drug can prevent the disease from being passed to the baby and causing microcephaly. Muotri is hoping his lab will continue to have success using the organoids as an effective brain model to find more cures, and provide a deeper understanding of brain development and disease. And, his work isn’t limited to Earth. Muotri recently launched his organoids into space for a groundbreaking study.

Watch — Using Stem Cells to Research the Brain – Health Matters

Developmental Disabilities Update

Check out highlights from this year’s conference addressing a variety of topics, including the impact of trauma and immigration on child development and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Offering a unique update for primary care and subspecialty health care professionals and others who care for children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities and complex health care needs, the conference covered a broad spectrum of developmental disabilities across the lifespan including autism spectrum disorders, mental health, genetic screening and diagnoses, and intervention and therapeutic consideration. Focus on special education, law enforcement, and policy from a variety of specialists adds to the content.

Presentations by expert faculty should be of interest to pediatricians, family physicians, nurse clinicians, psychologists, and internists who are involved in the healthcare of individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as to those in other health-related disciplines including health policy, epidemiology, psychiatry, school health, social work, and case management services.

While the conference is designed for health care professionals, families and individuals with developmental disabilities will also learn from the various represented disciplines. The conference was held at UCSF on March 14 and 15, 2019.

Browse more programs in Developmental Disabilities Update

Human Origins: Lessons from Autism Disorders

This month we present another fascinating series from the folks at UC San Diego’s Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) , who brought together the foremost rsearchers in the world to explore the newest understandings of the roots of autism spectrum disorders.

Tune in to “Human Origins: Lessons from Autism Spectrum Disorders” Wednesday nights at 9 (through December 19), or watch online.

Here’s the first episode in the three-part series, “Genetic Etiology, Surprising Findings in Autism, and The ‘Like-Me’ Theory for Connecting Self and Others.”

December Highlights

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More on ‘The Atlantic Meets Pacific’ Horizon

We continue our presentations from The Atlantic Meets the Pacific forum held at UC San Diego in October. This month you’ll be joined by The Atlantic’s James Fallows, “The Happiness Project” author Gretchen Rubin, video game designer Jane McGonigal, Calit 2’s Larry Smarr and more, all talking about improving the world –and our lives– through innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. Tune in Mondays at 8pm or watch online.

The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

Behind the Scenes at Scripps

E.W. Scripps Associates takes you on an exclusive adventure with Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists and students who have explored the ocean depths and come away with amazing results. From discovery of the first-known methane seeps off San Diego to video and images from the deepest place on earth, we welcome you to take a sneak peek into the abyss.

Behind the Scenes at Scripps: Return from the Deep

Lessons from Autism Disorders

This fascinating and important series from UC San Diego’s Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) explores the newest understandings of the roots of autism disorders from the foremost researchers in the world. Tune in Wednesday nights at 9 (through December 19) or watch online.

Human Origins: Lessons from Autism Spectrum Disorders


PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

All programs repeat throughout the month. Visit the Program Schedule on our web site for additional air dates and times.

Health & Medicine

The Human Laboratory: One Researcher’s Quest to Personalize Medicine with Larry Smarr — The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

Prostate Cancer Screening – Research on Aging

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Science

Where the Swell Begins with Walter Munk

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Public Affairs

Negotiating in Business, Politics and Peace featuring former Sen. George Mitchell — Institute for Peace & Justice

Games for Change: Solving the World’s Biggest Problems Through Alternate Realities with Jane McGonigal and Larry Smarr — The Atlantic Meets the Pacific

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Humanities Humanities

Revelle Forum: TC Boyle

Murder in the Cathedral – San Diego OperaTalk with Nick Reveles

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Arts & Music Arts & Music

The Art in Science, The Science in Art – La Jolla Playhouse

Gabriel Kahane: Come On All You Ghosts – La Jolla Music Society: SummerFest 2012

Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor – La Jolla Music Society SummerFest

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Check out the latest additions to our online video archive

Diabetic Medical Emergencies

Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star – Stuart Collection at UC San Diego

Gray Whales in a Changing Environment

More videos and podcasts>>