Su-Chun Zhang

Neuroscience Department

Neural pathway of human embryonic stem cells

(608) 265-2543

T651 Waisman Center
1500 Highland Ave
Madison, WI 53705


lab website:

focus group:

Developmental Biology & Regenerative Medicine

research description:

Our laboratory intends to answer how functionally diversified neuronal and glial subtypes are born in the making of our human brain. We have developed models of neural differentiation from mouse, monkey, and human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) that recapitulate key events occurring during early embryo development, including induction of multipotential neuroepithelial cells that form neural tube-like structures, patterning of region-specific neural progenitors, and generation of neurons and glia with particular transmitter or functional phenotypes. In parallel, we are building transgenic human ESC lines with regulatable gene expression. Together, we are dissecting biochemical interactions underlying the cellular differentiation processes under defined conditions. Such studies will hopefully bridge what we have learned from animal studies to human biology.

By introducing disease-provoking genes into ESCs or by activating the pluoripotent state of genetically mutated adult cells, we are creating model systems in which pathological cellular and molecular processes may be analyzed in bona fide human neurons and glia in a simplified environment. Such systems may be transformed to emplates for pharmaceutical screening.

The specialized neural cells produced from normal human ESCs in our laboratory are being tested for their therapeutic potential in animal models of neurological diseases such as Parkinson?s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis. Our long-term goal is to translate this technology to the re-building of our injured or diseased brain.

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