New technologies are allowing us to explore the brain as never before. We are entering a new era in neuroscience where our knowledge of the brain is beginning to match the urgent need to prevent and treat diseases of the brain.

Salk scientists gain insight into neurological disorders

Researchers in the lab of Rusty Gage use myriad strategies to study the cellular underpinnings of neurological disease, from the interactions of a single layer of cells in a dish to those in a 3D brain-like “organoid.” In work published in Cell Stem Cell in May 2018, Gage, first author Anindita Sarkar and colleagues created multiple types of neurons from stem cells to study the connections between brain cells, showing how communication between neurons is altered in people with schizophrenia.

In a paper in Nature Biotechnology in April 2018, Gage, first author Abed Mansour and colleagues reported a new approach to develop more sophisticated organoid models by ensuring they receive sufficient oxygen and other nutrients via transplantation into rodents. The work could yield insights into the development of cures for brain disorders; speed up the testing of drugs; and even pave the way for someday transplanting healthy populations of human cells into people’s brains to replace damaged or dysfunctional tissue.

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