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Dr Sarah Newey - image of a human induced pluripotent stem cells
Dr Sarah Newey - image of a human induced pluripotent stem cells

This image, produced by Dr Sarah Newey, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow based in the Department of Pharmacology, came runner-up in the Royal Society’s 2013 Picturing Science Competition: In this image, human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been differentiated into cortical neurons. The pinky-red staining is a marker for neuronal stem cells. These give rise to the more mature neurons, labelled green, with their characteristic arborizations. The nuclei of these cells are labelled blue.

Working in collaboration with Dr Colin Akerman (Dept of Pharmacology) and Dr Sally Cowley (James Martin Stem Cell Facility, The Dunn School of Pathology), and as part of the StemBANCC initiative, they are developing protocols to differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells into various types of cortical neurons.

The neuronal rosettes photographed contain the neural progenitors that give rise to the different classes of cortical cells.  The whole process takes in excess of 120 days.  The team then aim to develop assays to assess the potential of iPSC-derived cortical cells to exhibit both short and long-term forms of synaptic plasticity and ultimately, apply these techniques to cortical cells from patients with neurodysfunctional disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.  In this way, Dr Newey hopes to understand more about these disorders and identify new targets for drug discovery.