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Ropafadzo Mzezewa: Human stem cell-based models help advance epilepsy research

Tampereen yliopisto
SijaintiArvo Ylpön katu 34, Tampere
Kaupin kampus, Arvo-rakennus, Jarmo Visakorpi -sali ja etäyhteys
Ajankohta14.6.2024 9.00–13.00
PääsymaksuMaksuton tapahtuma
Kuva: Chandra Prajapati
In her doctoral dissertation, MSc Ropafadzo Mzezewa models epilepsy in vitro using human pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons. By focusing on key hallmarks of the disease and incorporating engineering-based approaches, she observed that the neuronal model developed resembles prominent seizure-like behaviour. The thesis therefore brings forward the relevance of human cell-based models for epilepsy research.

Epilepsy is burdensome neurological disorder with no permanent cure. The current antiseizure medication available does not benefit 30% of the patients and they are left with persisting symptoms. Animal models are commonly used in pharmaceutical industry, but translatability to humans contributes to one of the problems of drug failure. In her doctoral dissertation, MSc Ropafadzo Mzezewa aimed to develop human stem cell-based models for epilepsy that could be utilized as predictive pre-clinical models.

Ropafadzo, together with colleagues, showed efficiency of producing relevant neuronal cell types from healthy and patient derived human stem cells known to be compromised in epilepsy. Mimicking neuronal network connections in the brain was achieved through incorporation of micro-engineered platforms.

Microelectrode arrays, i.e. a sensor technology of electrical activity, was chosen as a competent method to distinguish seizure-like events in the stem cell-derived neurons. These neurons showed prominent responses that resemble seizure-like behaviour when chemically manipulated. 

The thesis demonstrates how human stem cell-based models can be vital in investigating genetic and inflammatory related pathologies of the disease. 

“We uncovered differences in electrical patterns in patient neurons. The model therefore holds competence in advancing epilepsy research”, says Ropafadzo.

Ropafadzo Mzezewa is of Zimbabwean/South African origin and is currently working as a Post doctoral researcher at the Novo Nordisk foundation for stem cell medicine, Copenhagen University, Denmark.

Public defence on Friday 14 June 

The doctoral dissertation of MSc, Ropafadzo Mzezewa in the field of Neuroscience titled Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Neurons to Model Epilepsy will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology at Tampere University 12 o’clock on Friday 14.6.2024 in Jarmo Visakorpi auditorium at Kauppi campus, Arvo building (Arvo ylpön katu 34, Tampere). The Opponent will be Adjunct Professor, Pirta Hotulainen from Minerva Institute for Medical research, Helsinki. The Custos will be Adjunct Professor, Susanna Narkilahti from Tampere University. 

The doctoral dissertation is available online

The public defence can be followed via remote connection