Direct lineage reprogramming of glia into induced neurons emerges as an innovative strategy towards remodelling diseased brain circuits. We investigate the possibility of converting glia (astrocytes or oligodendrocyte precursor cells) into new neurons within a brain region devoid of endogenous neurogenesis, the postnatal cerebral cortex. Previous in vitro and in vivo work has demonstrated the principal feasibility of reprogramming cortical glial cells into neurons by forced expression of neurogenic transcription factors such as the proneural genes Neurogenin 2 and Achaete-Scute Complex-like 1. In this lecture I will discuss our efforts to improve reprogramming efficacy and accuracy and provide evidence for the successful generation of neurons exhibiting at least some hallmarks of fast-spiking interneurons.
Benedikt leads a lab at the Centre for Developmental Neurobiology and the MRC Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King’s College London, UK and is a group leader at the Medical Center of Mainz University in Germany.
After studying biology at the University Munich, Benedikt did his PhD under supervision of the late Hans Thoenen on the role of neurotrophins and neural plasticity. He continued his career in the laboratory of Mu-ming Poo at the University of California San Diego, investigating rapid synapse modification by neurotrophins, before joining the laboratory of Magdalena Götz at the University Munich, where he discovered the capacity of the proneural factors Ascl1 and Neurog2 to convert astrocytes into neurons. In 2012, Benedikt moved to the Medical Center at Mainz University before joined King’s College London in 2018. His research focuses on unveiling the full potential of glia-to-neuron conversion in vivo.