Taking Flight Award

Utilizing Patient Derived Brain Organoids to Model the Differential Effects of SCN8A Mutation on Cortical and Hippocampal Neural Networks

Ranmal Samarasinghe, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

The goal of Dr. Samarasinghe’s project is to develop and utilize human brain organoids to enhance our understanding and treatment of epilepsy. Human brain organoids are 3D brain-like structures derived from human cells. Dr. Samarasinghe has made brain organoids from the cells of patients with severe epilepsy due to a mutation in the SCN8A gene. He developed these organoids to model different regions of the human brain and observed unique patterns of neuronal activity. For his CURE Epilepsy project, Dr. Samarasinghe will try to uncover the cellular changes that account for these differences in activity and will use the organoids as a model to test anti-seizure medications.