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Published: 2019-06-24 08:14 | Updated: 2019-06-24 08:14

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant to Gonçalo Castelo-Branco for participation in the Human Cell Atlas

Illustration of oligodendrocytes in their path from progenitor cells to mature states. Illustration: Job van der Zwan.

Gonçalo Castelo Branco, at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, is leading one of 38 projects that received a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Seed Networks for the Human Cell Atlas grant. The project, investigating how oligodendrocytes can be different in the human brain and spinal cord, will be part of the Human Cell Atlas, a global consortium of scientists whose mission is to create comprehensive reference maps of all human cells.

The project, coordinated by Gonçalo Castelo-Branco, and including Professor Anna Williams at the University of Edinburgh, UK and Dr. Gioele La Manno at EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland will investigate how oligodendrocytes can be different in the human brain and spinal cord.

Oligodendrocytes are cells that produce a membrane that insulate nerve cells, allowing the electric information to be transmitted in an efficient manner in the human central nervous system. Recent studies suggest that oligodendrocytes might be more diverse than previously thought, for instance in diseases such as multiple sclerosis. In this project, the researchers will analyze oligodendrocytes from different human brain and spinal cord regions, different ages and sexes, and investigate whether they are indeed diverse and how this diversity is established at the molecular level.

New insights on the complexity of oligodendrocytes

Gonçalo Castelo-Branco

“Our research will give new insights on the complexity of oligodendrocytes in the human brain and spinal cord. This might allow us to better understand their function in normal physiology, but also in several neurological pathologies, such as multiple sclerosis, leukodystrophies, spinal cord injuries, where these cells are affected or contribute to the pathology or regeneration”, says Gonçalo Castelo-Branco, Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet.

The grant is awarded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. CZI is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. The Seed Networks grant funds projects that contribute to the Human Cell Atlas, a global consortium of scientists whose mission is “To create comprehensive reference maps of all human cells—the fundamental units of life—as a basis for both understanding human health and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease”.

Contact

Goncalo Castelo-Branco