Miniature Brain Model Has Clinical Implications for Alzheimer Disease: Yanhong Shi, PhD


Yanhong Shi, PhD, director of stem cell biology research at City of Hope, discussed the new brain organoid, which was derived from human induced pluripotent stem cell technology to better study and understand sporadic Alzheimer disease.

“We believe the IPS (induced pluripotent stem cell)-derived working model provides a powerful way to study sporadic disease, the form [that affects a vast majority of those with] Alzheimer disease, and it can be used to model both genetic and environmental risk factors.”

Following the development of a miniature brain model to study sporadic Alzheimer disease, Yanhong Shi, PhD, Herbert Horvitz professor in neuroscience and director, division of stem cell biology research, Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, spoke with NeurologyLive on the key takeaways for clinicians, as well as the model’s ability to inform future research areas. 

While previous studies have used phenotypically young brain models, investigators from City of Hope challenged this through their age-associated brain organoids. As it is an investigational model, the organoid lacks a blood-brain barrier (BBB). Investigators counteracted this obstacle by exposing the organoid to serum in order to mimic leakage from the BBB seen in human patients with AD, a symptom associated with aging. Although findings will need to be validated in a clinical trial, Shi remains hopeful that the model will be useful prior to that stage, accelerating drug discovery, further increasing success rates, and lowering associated costs. 

City of Hope researchers develop miniature brain models to study the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to test drugs in development. News release. City of Hope. August 2, 2021.
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