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CRISPR-based functional genomics in iPSC-based models of brain disease
Human genes associated with brain-related diseases are being discovered at an accelerating pace. A major challenge is an identification of the mechanisms through which these genes act, and of potential therapeutic strategies. To elucidate such mechanisms in human cells, we established a CRISPR-based platform for genetic screening in human iPSC-derived neurons, astrocytes and microglia. Our approach relies on CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) and CRISPR activation (CRISPRa), in which a catalytically dead version of the bacterial Cas9 protein recruits transcriptional repressors or activators, respectively, to endogenous genes to control their expression, as directed by a small guide RNA (sgRNA). Complex libraries of sgRNAs enable us to conduct genome-wide or focused loss-of-function and gain-of-function screens. Such screens uncover molecular players for phenotypes based on survival, stress resistance, fluorescent phenotypes, high-content imaging and single-cell RNA-Seq. To uncover disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets, we are conducting genetic modifier screens for disease-relevant cellular phenotypes in patient-derived neurons and glia with familial mutations and isogenic controls. In a genome-wide screen, we have uncovered genes that modulate the formation of disease-associated aggregates of tau in neurons with a tauopathy-linked mutation (MAPT V337M). CRISPRi/a can also be used to model and functionally evaluate disease-associated changes in gene expression, such as those caused by eQTLs, haploinsufficiency, or disease states of brain cells. We will discuss an application to Alzheimer’s Disease-associated genes in microglia.

Jul 30, 2020 04:00 PM in London

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