At our recent Global Psychiatric Disorders Virtual Symposium, we heard from leading neuroscientists using cutting-edge single cell and spatial technologies to build a deeper understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying psychiatric disorders.
Always eager to take a deep dive into the complex world of the brain, we were thrilled to learn from some of the best minds in neuroscience at our recent Global Psychiatric Disorders Virtual Symposium. Five leading-edge researchers shared their latest discoveries and how they’re finding new ways to unlock the mechanisms driving neuropsychiatric conditions. If you were able to join us, you already know—frankly—how cool the research projects in these presentations are, and you might have had the chance to pose a question or two during the live Q&A sessions. If not, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for a quick rundown of what we learned during the Global Psychiatric Disorders Virtual Symposium, then watch the series of on-demand webinars to get the full story.
Our keynote speaker, Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, BJC Investigator and Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, kicked off the symposium with a fascinating discussion about the connection between immunity and brain function. As he describes it, immune cells may act as a “seventh sense,” relaying information to the brain as it encounters micro-organisms that may be harmful. He shared some of the findings he and his colleagues have uncovered over the years, and how single cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) has helped them determine the types of immune cells interacting with the brain, where they might be located, and the mechanisms by which they may be communicating. These discoveries have led them to their current theory—that cytokines act as neuromodulators mediating neuronal response and behavior via immune molecules that appear in both the brain and the immune cell–rich meninges.
Learn more about the relationship between the immune system and brain function in Dr. Kipnis’s on-demand presentation. Watch now →
Next up, we were joined by Xin Jin, PhD, Junior Fellow at Harvard University, who taught us about a new approach for studying neurological disorders that involve multiple risk genes, such as Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For a condition like ASD, in which over 100 genes have been implicated, single gene studies can miss critical information, especially in regards to neurodevelopment and how different genes may work together (or against each other) to drive dysfunction. With Drs. Aviv Regev, Feng Zhang, and Paola Arlotta, Dr. Jin developed in vivo Perturb-seq, a scalable method that enables functional screening of large numbers of CRISPR perturbations at single cell resolution. She is currently using this approach to study ASD in the context of developing tissue, working to build a deeper understanding of how, when, and where specific risk genes drive the development of different subtypes of ASD.
Learn more about this promising new method in Dr. Jin’s on-demand presentation. Watch now→
Read the publication to understand the science behind in vivo Perturb-seq. Read now→
And, visit our blog to find out why we’re excited about the future of this approach. Read now→
Corina Nagy, PhD, Assistant Professor at McGill University discussed how she’s using single cell technologies to open new doors into the study of major depressive disorder (MDD)—a complex, multifactorial mental health condition. Multiple brain regions and numerous cell types have been implicated in MDD, and, making things even more complicated, it’s believed that a large number of small variants located in non-coding genes modulate the behavior of risk genes associated with the disorder. That’s why Dr. Nagy and her colleagues are focused on functional genomics and, in the future, plan to integrate single cell, spatial, and epigenetic datasets to get a better view of the dynamics of MDD. Their next step is a systematic investigation of all brain regions implicated in MDD to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between cells and cell types implicated in MDD.
Find out more about how Dr. Nagy is developing and using innovative techniques to study MDD in her on-demand presentation. Watch now→
We got a multidimensional view of schizophrenia with Andrew Jaffe, PhD, Associate Professor at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, whose research focuses on understanding which genomic signatures are associated with normal brain development and subsequently become dysregulated in brain disorders. He shared his latest insights, describing recent investigations into the molecular correlates and causes of schizophrenia. Using a combination of single cell and spatial technologies, Dr. Jaffe and his team leveraged functional genomics data—mapping genetic risk signals to nearby genes—to identify cell types active in the disorder and then place them within the spatial context of the brain. While they’re focusing on schizophrenia, Jaffe and his colleagues foresee other ways their methods might aid future studies, opening up new avenues of discovery for other neurological disorders and, ultimately, new possibilities for treatment.
See how multidimensional approaches are driving new discoveries in Dr. Jaffe’s on-demand presentation. Watch now→
We ended the week with a different perspective on schizophrenia as Konstantin Khodosevich, PhD, Group Leader and Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, told us how he’s also integrating single cell and spatial analyses in his work, but with a unique goal. Dr. Khodosevich and his team are interested in neuronal network impairment, studying the mechanisms that drive the development of neural circuits underlying the schizophrenia phenotype. Studying a mouse model of maternal inflammation, Dr. Khodosevich used single cell and spatial technologies to locate instances of selective vulnerability in neuronal subtypes and reveal a neuronal subtype–specific molecular phenotype of schizophrenia.
Get a deeper look at the mechanisms of neuronal network impairment in schizophrenia in Dr. Khodosevich’s on-demand presentation. Watch now→
Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Global Psychiatric Disorders Virtual Symposium and to the amazing researchers who presented for their incredible contributions to the field!