Spotlight: Allyson Renato Muotri, PhD

Allyson Muotri, PhDIn honor of our 10th anniversary, we thought it would be fun to do a spotlight on Allyson R. Muotri, PhD, who was one of the original researchers who worked on the iPS cell lines for CDKL5. Dr. Muotri is Professor of Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine, Director of the University of California San Diego Stem Cell Program.

Where do you work?

Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine in La Jolla, CA.

Tell us about your research. (Assume we know nothing!)

My lab focus is on the recreation of the human brain from stem cells. These so called brain organoids (aka mini-brains) can recapitulate early stages of neurodevelopment in humans. By comparing mini brains derived from CDD patients to neurotypical controls, we can understand how mutation in the CDKL5 gene perturbs the brain and find ways to fix it.

What interests you most about your area of study?

Neuro-genetic disorders have origins in the embryonic-fetal brain. This is a hard stage to study in humans due to the experimental inaccessibility of the human brain in uterus. The fact that we can now, for the first time in the history of science, peep on that black box using mini brains in the lab is fascinating and opens novel therapeutic opportunities.

When was the moment you first fell in love with science?

My first deep scientific though was when I was about 7 years old, trying to figure out how a light bulb works. My idea was that the light bulb was not there to send light but to suck up the darkness. It took awhile to find an adult who could disprove my hypothesis.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Enjoying my son and wife, trekking in nature and, of course we are in San Diego, surf is up!