Louis Dang, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Assistant Professor of Neurology, University of Michigan Medical School
Nearly 3.5 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy, a neurologic seizure disorder. About 35% of these cases have a genetic cause. Our laboratory uses human stem cells to explore how a given genetic change can contribute to cellular pathologies in cases of genetic epilepsy; we hope that this information will help us to design better therapies. Here, we used human induced pluripotent stem cells (generated in the laboratory from skin cells) to make cortical-like neurons (green) so that we can study their behavior. In this image, the human neurons are co-cultured with rat glial cells (“nurse” cells, labeled in red) which serve to nourish the neurons and keep them healthy. Note that the neurons extend long processes to each other to form a network of communication; the same thing happens in the brain to form neural circuits. In people with epilepsy, seizures result from over-excitation of this neural network.