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Sergiu P. Pasca
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsA critical challenge in understanding the intricate programs underlying development, assembly and dysfunction of the human brain is the lack of direct access to intact, functioning human brain tissue for detailed investigation by imaging, recording, and stimulation.
To address this, we are developing bottom-up approaches to generate and assemble, from multi-cellular components, human neural circuits in vitro and in vivo.
We introduced the use of instructive signals for deriving from human pluripotent stem cells self-organizing 3D cellular structures named brain region-specific spheroids/organoids. We demonstrated that these cultures, such as the ones resembling the cerebral cortex, can be reliably derived across many lines and experiments, contain synaptically connected neurons and non-reactive astrocytes, and can be used to gain mechanistic insights into genetic and environmental brain disorders. Moreover, when maintained as long-term cultures, they recapitulate an intrinsic program of maturation that progresses towards postnatal stages.
We also pioneered a modular system to integrate 3D brain region-specific organoids and study human neuronal migration and neural circuit formation in functional preparations that we named assembloids. We have actively applied these models in combination with studies in long-term ex vivo brain preparations to acquire a deeper understanding of human physiology, evolution and disease mechanisms.
We have carved a unique research program that combines rigorous in vivo and in vitro neuroscience, stem cell and molecular biology approaches to construct and deconstruct previously inaccessible stages of human brain development and function in health and disease.
We believe science is a community effort, and accordingly, we have been advancing the field by broadly and openly sharing our technologies with numerous laboratories around the world and organizing the primary research conference and the training courses in the area of cellular models of the human brain.
Emma Pfeiffer Merner Professor in the Medical Sciences
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsThe major focuses of our research is to understand the molecular basis of inherited Parkinson's Disease (PD) and to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which proteins and cholesterol are transported between specific membrane compartments. We focus on the LRRK2 kinase that is inappropriately activated in PD and how it phosphorylates Rab GTPases, blocking the formation of primary cilia in culture and specific regions of the brain.
Director of Planning and Operations, Stanford ChEM-H
BioDr. Elizabeth Ponder joined Stanford ChEM-H in 2014 and is currently the Director of Planning and Operations. Dr. Ponder completed her Ph.D. and postdoctoral training at Stanford University in the laboratory of Dr. Matthew Bogyo. Her past work has included promoting public-private partnerships in the non-profit sector, managing multidisciplinary research in the higher education sector, and business development consulting in the for-profit biotech sector. Dr. Ponder joined ChEM-H from the University of California, Berkeley where she served as the Executive Director of the Henry Wheeler Center for Emerging & Neglected Diseases (CEND).
Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology (Radiation Physics)
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsThe Physical Oncology Lab is interested in making a lasting impact on translational cancer research by building novel physical tools and methods.