Alysson and the Organoids

A professor's quest to understand what makes us human. A conversation with Dr. Alysson Muotri.

How would you go about solving all the world's problems at once?

By changing the human brain, according to Dr. Alysson Muotri, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine at the University of California.

Our brains mediate our entire experience of the world — every memory, belief, perception and action passes through the brain and its nervous system.

Alysson's quest is to understand what makes human brain so unique. By making models of the brain — growing human brain organoids from human stem cells — Alysson and his team have built a tool that has broad applications and implications, from helping with treatment of the Zika virus to understanding the development of autism.


Alysson and I spoke about:

  • What is it that makes us uniquely human? — [0:00]

  • Humanising neurological disorder, Oliver Sacks. — [1:42]

  • How Dr. Muotri went from genetics to neuroscience. — [2:31]

  • Understanding the spectrums of disorders like autism. — [6:00]

  • Modifying the human brain. — [8:32]

  • We all modify our brains to be more social. — [12:30]

  • Growing entire organisms from stem cells. — [13:37]

  • Using brain organoids to improve computing and artificial intelligence. — [17:16]

  • Speeding up human evolution. — [21:03]

  • Growing and connecting to other organs. [25:18]

  • Putting human brain cells into other animals — what sets us apart? [26:35]

  • Personalised organoids for medical treatments. [29:23]

  • Organoids in space. [32:49]

  • Concluding thoughts. [35:51]

Further Resources:

BioFutures | Alysson Muotri | Growing Brain Organoids in the Lab — (Exploratorium speech)

Neanderthal-like ‘mini-brains’ created in lab with CRISPR

STEM Capsule: Alysson Muotri

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