Columbia Scientists Receive Prestigious New Innovator Awards from NIH

October 4, 2022


Christopher Makinson, PhD

Christopher Makinson, PhD

Christopher Makinson, PhD, assistant professor of neurological sciences (in the Department of Neurology of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Institute for Genomic Medicine, and the Columbia Stem Cell Initiative) is among four young faculty members at Columbia University who received prestigious “New Innovator” awards from the NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward program. 

Building a brain in a dish

Put human stem cells in a dish, under the right conditions, and they will self-assemble into 3D neural tissues—brain organoids—that show remarkable similarities to the developing brain. As the closest cellular model to native human brain tissue available, brain organoids are an enormously powerful system for probing mechanisms of early (prenatal) brain development.

But brain organoid maturation stalls as it approaches later stages of development. Why might this be? The brain requires experience to develop and mature. Yet, current brain-in-a-dish approaches are unable to replicate this key aspect of development. In his project, Christopher Makinson will introduce synthetic "virtual" inputs to mimic this missing experience in order to drive later stages of human brain development.

If successful, Makinson’s lab will use the mature brain organoids to address fundamental questions about how the human brain develops and to uncover pathogenic mechanisms behind severe developmental epilepsies. This resource will also enable other researchers to use organoids to access some of the earliest, disease-relevant processes in disorders such as autism, intellectual disability, or schizophrenia.

More information: Unlocking the postnatal human brain using activity augmented organoids. [read more]

Source: CUIMC Newsroom