Skip to Content

Stem Cell Biology & Neurodegenerative Disease

Dr John Haynes

A calcium fluorophore-loaded astrocyte responding to PGE2. Note the microdomain signalling associated with the extensive endoplasmic reticulum.

Stem cells can self-renew indefinitely and, being pluripotent, they can develop into any cell type present in the adult. Much of the focus of stem cell biology is directed at the specification of particular cellular phenotypes (neurons, cardiomyocytes, blood, etc.) for use in cell replacement therapies, drug screening and disease modelling. The Stem Cell Group at MIPS has generated a number of embryonic stem cell reporter lines enabling the identification of particular neurons in culture. The development of these reporter lines underlies our core interest in developing human stem cell-based models of human disease; however, these fluorescent reporter lines have a broader significance and we have used them to facilitate:

  • the identification of conditions conducive to the enrichment of specific neural phenotypes,
  • the characterization of neurons in culture and
  • the development of models of neurodegeneration and neuropsychiatric disease.

My research is largely focussed on the development of models of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. The first step in this model development program is defining conditions that permit the generation of specific cell types (for example, A9 or A10 midbrain dopaminergic neurons), the second step is defining conditions that reflect the environment associated with disease (if possible). This approach enables us to track how healthy cells change in disease, which in turn enables us to better define disease model systems. Ultimately the development of more pathophysiologically relevant disease model systems enables us to efficiently develop and assess new therapeutic targets and potential treatments.