The Connectome of Newly Born Neurons

Type of Award: Catalyst
Date Awarded: September 2017
Award End Date: August 2017
Amount Awarded: $ 235,371.00
PI(s): Narayanan Kasthuri, UChicago; Irina Balyasnikova, NU;

Abstract: Brain diseases are an enormous economic burden worldwide. Stem cell therapy promises to help by rewiring malfunctioning brains: replacing damaged neurons and their connections with new neurons derived from stem cells (SCNs). This promise remains unfulfilled. The sheer complexity of brains (e.g. ~ 100 billion neuronal connections made by ~ 100 million neurons in the mouse) has stymied understanding of fundamental questions about stem cells and brains: how do stem cells navigate this vast 'jungle' of nerve cells to arrive at specific sites? How do they connect with neurons already connected to other neurons by thousands of pre-existing connections? We have developed a multi-scale brain mapping imaging platform that reconstructs stem cell derived neurons specifically over entire brains and, with nanometer precision, identifies their neuronal connections. By providing definitive answers about how stem cells integrate into brains, we will identify future targets for improving stem cell therapy for brain diseases.