How synaptic cell adhesion and signaling guide synaptic function and connectivity in the developing human brain and their contributions to neuropsychiatric disorders
The Pak lab is interested in human brain development especially in the context of synapses, which are the functional and mature units of neuronal communication in the brain. We use innovative tools in stem cell biology and state-of-the-art neurobiology techniques to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing synapse formation and function during normal development. We are also actively investigating how these processes are misregulated in the formation and manifestation of neuropsychiatric diseases, such as intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia, which are considered synaptic disorders.
Nerve cells in the brain communicate through specialized junctions called synapses. Synaptic connections need to be properly formed, specified and maintained during development and throughout life. Aberrations in this process lead to various neuropsychiatric diseases such as intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia. Therefore, understanding the fundamental roles of proteins important for synaptic development and function is crucial to enhance our understanding and treatment of these disorders.
To this end, we are currently interested in two major areas:
Developing novel tools to better model human synaptic development.
Understanding the normal functions of synaptic cell adhesion molecules and their signaling partners and how are they misregulated in disease states.
To do this, we take a multidisciplinary approach including, human pluripotent stem cell derived neural cells, genome engineering, patient derived iPSCs, synaptic biology, cell and molecular biology.
Learn more at: http://www.thepaklab.org/
- PhD, Emory University School of Medicine
- Post Doc, Standford University School of Medicine