Neural Development Group

Team leader: Julia Ladewig

Our intellectual abilities are what distinguishes us most from ancestral vertebrates including other mammals. Most cognitive skills are accomplished by a complex network formed by neurons and glia of the human cerebral cortex. To understand the development and function of this organ, neurobiologists undertook substantial effort in investigating in vitro and in vivo models. These studies gave us first insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms leading to the complexity of the human brain. They were, however, hampered by the limited access to human brain tissue and inadequate model systems. Methodologies to model human brain development using human pluripotent stem cells (PSC) provide tremendous potential to accelerate cellular, molecular and functional studies of human brain development.
The Neurodevelopment group employs induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)- and direct cell conversion-based systems to study the molecular mechanisms that control cell diversity and positioning in the developing human cerebral cortex in heath and disease.

* Iefremova, V., Manikakis, G., Krefft, O., Jabali, A., Weynans, K., Wilkens, R., Marsoner, F., Brändl, B., Müller, F.-J., Koch, P., Ladewig, J. “An organoid-based model of cortical development identifies non-cell-autonomous defects in Wnt signaling contributing to Miller-Dieker Syndrome” Cell Reports. 2017 April 4;19(1):50–59. DOI: (2017)
* Ladewig, J., Koch, P., Brüstle, O. “In vitro migration assays for neural stem cells, intermediate neurogenic progenitors and immature neurons” Bio-Protocol Jan 05 2015;5(1). (2015)
* Ladewig, J.*, Koch, P.*, Brüstle, O. “Auto-attraction of neural precursors and their neuronal progeny impairs neuronal migration” Nature Neuroscience 17(1):24-6. doi: 10.1038/nn.3583. Epub 2013 Nov 17. (2014) (IF: 15.251)
* Ladewig, J.*, Koch, P.*, Brüstle, O. “Leveling Waddington: The Emergence of Direct Programming and the Loss of Cell Fate Hierarchies” Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 14(4):225-236 (2013) (IF: 39,123)
* Ladewig, J., Mertens, J.*, Kesavan, J.*, Doerr, J., Poppe, D., Glaua, F., Herms, S., Wernet, P., Kögler, G., Müller, F.-J., Koch, P.*, Brüstle, O.* (2012) “Small molecules enable highly efficient neuronal conversion of human fibroblast” Nature Methods 9(6):575-578 (2012) (IF: 23.565)
* Ladewig, J*., Koch, P.*., Endl, E., Meiners, B., Opitz, T., Couillard-Despres, S., Aigner, L., Brüstle, O. “Lineage selection of functional and cryopreservable human embryonic stem cell-derived neurons” (* equal contribution) Stem Cells. Jul;26(7):1705-12. (2008) (IF: 7.871)

Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Junior research group (since 01.01.2014).

Neuron Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research, JTC 2015 Neurodevelopmental Disorders, STEM-MCD ’Stem cells and mechanisms contributing to human cortical malformations’.