Wetenschapscafe Rotterdam

26 June 2017

Growing the brain in a petri dish

Prof. dr. Steven A. Kushner

Uncovering the mysteries of how the brain functions, and the knowledge of how to most effectively prevent and treat human brain diseases remains one of the most challenging problems in biomedical science. Recent technological breakthroughs in 1) next-generation DNA sequencing, 2) induced pluripotent stem cell biology and 3) organ-on-chip bioengineering have nowconverged together, generating unprecedented optimism within the research community that we may finally be on the verge of major breakthroughs in understanding and treating brain diseases. In my lecture, I will describe these emerging methods, their current implementation and future directions in which this technology might be taking us. In addition, we will discuss the inevitable ethical implications of this avenue of research and how an increasing understanding of the inner workings of our brain might influence public policy and legal precedent.


Steven A. Kushner is Professor of Neurobiological Psychiatry at the Erasmus MC, Rotterdam. He is the co-director of the Population Neuroscience Academic Center of Excellence, founding member of the ENCORE center for neurodevelopmental disorders, Coordinator of the brain-on-a-chip program of the human organ and Disease Model Technologies (hDMT) consortium, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies – Kavli Network Scholar, and member of the recently awarded NWO Zwaartekracht Netherlands Organ-on-Chip Initiative.

This 'Wetenschapscafe' will be in English.


It let's us learn, contains our words, communicates ourpain. It processes what whe see and what we hear; we are steered by our brain.


Our cruise control, our navigation. Our movement, thecentre, the transportation from... Wanting to willing, from willing to doing,from failing to gaining success: learning, evolving, it's a chemical thing: ourrelaxing and our stress.


It plays tricks on us, it shapes and swaps and blends andbends... Life stops when it ends, I can barely comprehend, it's a miracle thatwe're only able to use a couple precent.


It makes us remember, it let's us forget. It makes usremember, it let's us forget... It enables our every little step. Each stretchof the arms, each blink of an eye. It contains plans for the future and momentsgone by. It makes us remember, it let's us forget... It makes us remember, itlet's us forget... So sometimes we say things, we've already said.


Sometimes the brain gets sick and we lose everyability... And with it, our life, at least the utility. So it can't be asurprise that we try everything, to solve and to cure, to try and to bringbrainy health issues to an end... But: is it science fiction in it's core orthe evolving of care? It's not a thin line between possible and ethical,there's a whole world over there. 

Columnist: Derek Otte

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