Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cellular Mechanism of Disease, Neuroscience
The University of Utah
Development and function of human synapses in health and disease
Synapses provide the major biochemical substrates for the development and execution of cognitive functions in the brain. Correspondingly, mutations in synaptic proteins have been identified in patients with various mental illnesses. Due to the very limited access to the human brain, mechanisms of synaptic development and function have been mainly investigated in animal models. However, major differences between animals and humans make it difficult to translate the results acquired in animals into treatments for patients. As a result, medicines that are currently available for patients with autism, intellectual disability, bipolar disorders, depression, schizophrenia, and other neuropsychiatric disorders are largely unspecific with serious side effects. Therefore, there is a critical need to study synapses in human neurons. We study the development and function of human synapses under normal and pathological conditions using human neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).