Stem Cells in Neural Development

Our research focuses on the role of the environment and the cellular microenvironment during embryonic development, and disease onset and progression. We are particularly interested in neuronal differentiation and survival as well as in diseases resulting from dysfunction of the nervous system.

We use cells of the nervous system in 2D culture and organoids derived from pluripotent stem cells (mouse and human), to understand how the microenvironment and cells interplay (cell-cell adhesion and cell-extracellular matrix interactions) can control embryonic development and how the deregulation of this interplay can affect the homeostasis of a tissue.

We are recreating these naturally occurring cellular processes in a dish, in order to generate an in vitro model system to decipher their underlying basic cellular and molecular mechanisms. We hope to elucidate disease development with the ultimate goal to apply our knowledge to regenerative medicine and for the screening and discovery of drugs with therapeutic potential.

More specifically, we use a combination of molecular biology, glycobiology, genetics, biostatistics, imaging and high-throughput screening to:

  1. understand how key transcription factors regulate the cellular microenvironment to control tissue homeostasis. 
  2. decipher the role of the extracellular matrix in neuronal differentiation and pathogenesis.
  3. identify natural products protective against neuronal cell death through their action on the extracellular matrix.
  4. develop simple and robust cell-based assays for disease modelling and drug discovery.

To foster interactions with other research groups within and outside HMGU, we have created a facility (SCADEV), which provides specific cell types of interest in 2D culture (low-throughput and high-throughput formats) and organoids models, derived from human pluripotent stem cells.

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