Research Focus

The Wolvetang group creates brain organoids from human pluripotent stem cells in order to elucidate the genetic, environmental and ageing impacts on human brain development and function, with the aim of developing therapeutics. Our strategy is to capture the genomic make-up of an individual by reprogramming patient-derived blood or skin cells into immortal human induced pluripotent stem cells that can make all cell types of the human body (including the brain). CRISPR-enabled manipulation of the genome, epigenome and gene expression in the lentil-sized in-vitro brain organoid models are combined with robotic high-content imaging approaches, single-cell analysis gene expression and functional read-outs on multi-electrode arrays to understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of disease and to screen therapeutics. These approaches continue to provide new insights into the neuropathogenic processes in Down syndrome, Ataxia-Telangiectasia, childhood white matter disease (leukodystrophies) and cortical dysplasia, and uniquely enable assessment of the impacts of neurotropic viruses such as ZIKA and SARS-COV2. We also use brain organoid models to design personalised treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy, and for pre-clinical testing of gene therapy and drug treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and ageing-related processes such as senescence.
 
 
Capacity building:
Prof Wolvetang leads the QLD node of the TANCR-Phenomics Australia NNAT Initiative.

Researchers


 

Students


 

Professor Wolvetang collaborates with leading clinical researchers of neurological diseases such as Prof Marjo van der Knaap (VU Amsterdam) and Dr Adeline Vanderver (Washington Children Hospital) as well as with leaders in the cell reprogramming and stem cell field such as Dr Miguel Esteban (Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health) and Professor Martin Pera (Jackson laboratories Bar Harbor, ME USA). Professor Wolvetang engages with the company InterK on testing peptide therapeutics and with the Massimo Foundation, BrAshAT and the GLIA consortium on finding and testing novel therapeutics for hypo-myelination diseases and childhood ataxias. The UQ Centre in Stem Cell Ageing and Regenerative Engineering established in July 2016, co-directed by Professor Wolvetang, aims to develop novel therapeutic approaches to overcome the decline of stem cells with age.