University-wide, Talks & Lectures, Open to the Public, Alumni
4 Nov 2020
Zoom Webcast

CCB SEMINAR SERIES ON COVID-19: Use of Human Brain Organoids to Understand the Neurological Component of Covid-19

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Dr. Alysson R. Muotri

Professor and Director of the Stem Cell Program, UCSD School of Medicine


The newly described severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which was rapidly declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Early clinical symptomatology mainly focused on respiratory illnesses. However, a variety of neurological manifestations in both adults and newborns are also emerging. To determine whether SARS-CoV-2 could infect and replicate in human brain cells, we expose iPSC-derived human brain organoids to the virus. Our findings show that SARS-CoV-2 was able to infect and promote the death of neural cells, including cortical neurons. This phenotype was accompanied by impaired synaptogenesis in excitatory neurons. Finally, we tested different pharmacological treatments in infected brain organoids and found an FDA-approved antiviral drug, was able to rescue these alterations. Given that there is currently no vaccine and no effective treatment, urgent therapies are needed.


Dr. Muotri is a professor at the Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego. He is also the Director of the Stem Cell Program. Dr. Muotri earned a BSc in Biological Sciences from the State University of Campinas in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Genetics in 2001 from University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. He moved to the Salk Institute as Pew Latin America Fellow in 2002 for a postdoctoral training in the fields of neuroscience and stem cell biology. His research focuses on brain evolution and modeling neurological diseases using human induced pluripotent stem cells and brain organoids. He has received several awards, including the prestigious NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, NARSAD, Emerald Foundation Young Investigator Award, Surugadai Award, Rock Star of Innovation, NIH EUREKA Award, Telly Awards among several others.


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