Solving the puzzle of brain development
Dr. Karun Singh

​Dr. Karun Singh received the Canadian Association for Neuroscience’s Young Investigator Award in 2018

With sophisticated gene editing tools, Dr. Karun Singh is investigating how genes influence neurological development and vision

One of the key roadblocks to treating neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) such as autism, schizophrenia or Down syndrome is understanding the root causes of the conditions.

Dr. Karun Singh is on a mission to overcome these hurdles by leveraging the power of stem cells and gene editing technology, with the goal of developing effective treatments – or even cures – for NDDs. It's a daunting task, but one the neuroscientist relishes, especially because he has the opportunity to bring hope to families of children with NDDs.

"I interact with families all the time, and the thing I tell them is that they're taking part in the latest and most emerging research," says Dr. Singh, a newly recruited senior scientist at the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute. "When we can use a stem cell-based approach, it really is a more accurate way to study their disorder."

Simply put, NDDs impair development in the brain, resulting in everything from learning disabilities to visual impairment. Scientists have struggled to study these disorders because they can't access live patient brain tissue, limiting their research capabilities.

Dr. Singh's groundbreaking work focuses on understanding how genes and genetic mutations influence neurological development. By lab-engineering brain cells from patient stem cells using sophisticated gene editing tools, he's able to study neurological conditions in a more comprehensive way.

He and his team can take a blood sample from an individual with a specific brain disorder, then mimic what's happening in the person's brain in a controlled laboratory setting, without invasive testing.

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