Scientists have been fascinated by the human brain for centuries, yet knowledge of the cellular and molecular events that build the human brain during embryogenesis and of how abnormalities in this process lead to neurological disease remains very superficial. In particular, the lack of experimental models for a process that largely occurs during human in utero development, and is therefore poorly accessible for study, has hindered progress in mechanistic understanding. Advances in stem cell-derived models of human organogenesis, in the form of three-dimensional organoid cultures, and transformative new analytic technologies have opened new experimental pathways for investigation of aspects of development, evolution, and pathology of the human brain. Here, we consider the biology of brain organoids, compared and contrasted with the endogenous human brain, and highlight experimental strategies to use organoids to pioneer new understanding of human brain pathology.

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Photo of Paola Arlotta

Dr. Arlotta is interested in understanding the molecular laws that govern the birth, differentiation and assembly of the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that controls how we sense, move and think. She integrates developmental and evolutionary knowledge to investigate therapies for brain repair and for modeling neuropsychiatric disease.

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