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Multicellular Engineered Living Systems (MCELS) student-led seminar

Event Type
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
wifi event
Dec 2, 2022   3:00 pm  
Taylor Pio, Rebecca Pinals, Xiaotian Zhang
Hyeon Ryoo
Originating Calendar
Bioengineering calendar

Multicellular engineered living systems (MCELS) cross-campus seminar series are a student-led effort involving UIUC, MIT and Georgia Tech. The aim is to share the knowledge between the campuses to create a closer working environment and encourage collaborations. We are actively looking for student organizers, please contact if you are interested!


The seminar will take place through Zoom ( on Friday Dec 2, 3PM.


This seminar will focus on Neural M-CELS with the following trainee presenters from all three campuses:


Taylor Pio

Title: Exploring the Human Motor System Using the Cortico-Motor Assembloid

Abstract: From human skin cells to three-dimensional cultures, induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived organoids have changed the way we think about disease modeling.  These in vitro systems broaden our ability to understand human biology by addressing the critical lack of access to functional human tissue. Organoid systems have demonstrated the unique ability to recapitulate key human or disease-specific phenomena. The next step in the field has been the functional connection of two or more relevant organoids, termed the ‘Assembloid’. The assembly of physiologically relevant regions enables scientists to study complex human cell-to-cell and interregional interactions in vitro. Our lab uses the Cortico-motor Assembloid (cortical-to-spinal-to-muscle organoid) to study the development and dysfunction of the human motor system.


Rebecca Pinals, Ph.D.

Title: Building brain-on-chip models with integrated vasculature

Abstract: Our understanding of brain function under healthy and diseased states is dependent upon, and often limited by, the models and tools with which we study them. Multi-cellular engineered living systems (M-CELS) present the opportunity to recapitulate biologically relevant brain morphology and function in a tunable and well-controlled platform that is readily probed by dynamic and end-state characterization methods. However, to date, no model has successfully incorporated all major brain tissue components together with a functional blood-brain barrier. Achieving integrated and coupled neuronal, vascular, and immune components within a unified brain-on-chip platform would establish a powerful system to better represent the complex brain microenvironment and more closely emulate the brain in healthy and pathological states. Herein, we will discuss current techniques and advances moving us closer to realizing this multi-cellular integrated brain co-culture system. This discussion will include steps toward co-culturing neurons and vascular cell types, functionally vascularizing the brain in vitro, and driving development of a more in vivo-like immune component. We will contextualize challenges associated with attaining these milestones and consider the broader impacts of realizing these next-generation neural M-CELS.


Xiaotian Zhang, Ph.D.

Title: Open-Science approach to in-vitro neuronal electrophysiology

Abstract: In this talk I will discuss an open-science approach to in-vitro neuronal electrophysiology. I will present a versatile, fully customizable system made of standard, inexpensive materials, with recording capability on-par with commercial setups at a ten-fold cost reduction. I will demonstrate the functionality of our system through recordings across a range of neuronal cultures, from embryonic stem cell-derived neurons and primary brain cells to organotypic brain slices. Opportunities to further advance this open-hardware approach will also be discussed in terms of recording capacity, integration with on-board stimulation/sensory modules or with microscopic imaging techniques.

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