Modelling predisposition to schizophrenia using stem cells.

Kristen Brennand is a stem cell biologist working to bridge the fields of developmental neuroscience and psychiatry. A major focus of her work is developing in vitro models for schizophrenia (SZ) in order to identify novel insights into the molecular and cellular phenotypes of mental illness. SZ is believed to result from abnormal neurodevelopmental processes that begin years before the onset of symptoms. She previously reprogrammed fibroblasts from SZ patients into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and subsequently differentiated these disorder-specific hiPSCs into neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and neurons. She and others have found that SZ hiPSC NPCs show evidence of aberrant migration, increased oxidative stress, perturbed responses to environmental stressors, while SZ hiPSC neurons exhibit decreased neurite number reduced synaptic maturation and reduced synaptic activity.