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McKelvey School of Engineering

BME Seminar: Randolph S. Ashton, PhD

Thursday, September 1 | 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Uncas A. Whitaker Hall, 218
6760 Forest Park Pkwy, St. Louis, MO 63105, USA

Presenting on “Bioengineering CNS Morphogenesis for Scalable Application in Regulatory Science and Precision Medicine”

Randolph S. Ashton, PhD, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering & Wisconsin Institute of Discovery; Associate Director, Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, will speak on Thursday, September 1, 2022 at 10:00 am CST in Whitaker 218.

Abstract: Neural organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are powerful tools for modeling and investigating CNS development, physiology, and disease. However, the innate and spontaneous emergent properties of neurally differentiating hPSC aggregates, which make neural organoids possible, also limits their application due to inconsistencies in the organoid’s cellular composition and tissue cytoarchitecture. We hypothesized that this was caused by the absence of biophysical and biochemical cues normally present within the developing embryo. To reinstate such controls in vitro, we developed culture methods and platforms that enable facile spatiotemporal control of such cues to result in a standardization of early neural organoid morphogenesis. In this talk, our success in exerting biophysical control over microscale tissue morphology to standardize the derivation of singularly polarized, forebrain through spinal neuroepithelial tissues and tubes will be presented. This mimics the earliest stage of CNS morphogenesis, i.e. neural tube formation. Additionally, scaling and application of this culture platform to provide an ‘off-the-shelf’ screen for quantitatively assessing the effects of chemicals, drugs, and genetic mutations on human brain and spinal cord will also be discussed.

Support for this work was funded by National Science Foundation CCF-1418976 & IIS-1447449 (RMW) and CBET-1651645 (RSA) grants, National Institute of Health 1U54 AI117924-01 (RMW), R21NS082618, R33NS082618, and R21HD103111 (RSA) grants, EPA STAR Award 83573701 (RSA), Burroughs Wellcome Fund Award 1014150 (RSA), and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation through a Draper TIFF, Accelerator, and Fall Competition Awards.

Conflict of interest disclosure: RSA is a co-founder and interim CEO of Neurosetta LLC, which seeks to commercialize the presented technology.

Event Type



McKelvey School of Engineering


Science & Technology, Medicine & Health

Biomedical Engineering


Event Contact

Mimi Hilburg | mhilburg@wustl.edu

Speaker Information

Randolph S. Ashton was born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in Richmond, VA. After graduating from the Thomas Jefferson Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, he received his BS from Hampton University (Hampton, Virginia, 2002) and PhD from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY, 2007) in Chemical Engineering. During graduate school, he researched how to engineer biomaterials at the nanoscale to regulate the fate of adult neural stem cells. He continued to pursue his interest in stems cells and tissue engineering as a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California Berkeley’s Stem Cell Center. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Principle Investigator of the Stem Cell Bioprocessing and Regenerative Biomaterials laboratory at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Dr. Ashton’s lab develops novel tissue engineering methodologies to derive brain and spinal cord tissues from human pluripotent stem cells, which can be used to create groundbreaking regenerative therapies and models of neurological disorders.

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