Engineering neurogenesis

Benedikt  Berninger


With few notable exceptions, the adult mammalian brain is devoid of physiological neurogenesis, and hence lacks a significant regenerative capacity. My lab is interested in developing strategies to reinstall neurogenesis in brain areas such as the cerebral cortex where neurogenesis normally ceases forever once embryogenesis is completed. We pursue this goal by directly reprogramming brain endogenous cells such as glia and brain pericytes across their cell lineage into induced neurons. We use virus-based strategies to introduce factors with lineage reprogramming capacity into glial cells in vitro and in vivo, analyze the molecular changes induced by these factors using state-of-the-art transcriptomics, and scrutinize the physiological properties of induced neurons using patch-clamp electrophysiology. To learn about the general principles of how pre-existing neural networks can accommodate for the integration of newly generated neurons, we also study neural stem cells and their progeny in the few adult neurogenic niches which the mammalian brain harbors, e.g. in the hippocampus. We hope that our research will pave the way for new strategies for regenerating the diseased brain.

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