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Nicole Coufal, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Pediatrics

Human microglia, although they represent only a small fraction of cells of the adult brain, are the predominant glial cell during much of human brain development. Surprisingly little is known about the microglial contribution to normal brain development, or how microglial dysfunction contributes to the pathogenesis or neurodevelopmental disorders.

A major focus of our lab is understanding how microglial dysfunction contributes to human neurological disease and to determine in what contexts and situations microglia represent a novel therapeutic target.

​Through the application of human stem cell derived models of microglial biology, combining patient derived and CRISPR modified lines we strive to understand the molecular determinants of microglial fate, functionality, and signaling. To delineate the interaction of microglia with the developing brain and vice versa, we have helped generate and validate cerebral organoid cocultures and a murine xenotransplantation model.


  1. Identify determinants of microglial environmental dependence and delineate signaling interactions with the developing brain

  2. Uncover novel contributions and molecular mechanisms by which microglia contribute to the pathogenesis of pediatric neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

  3. Identify novel therapeutic targets that can be validated through our models to ultimately treat currently untreatable pediatric neurological disorders.

Nicole Coufal, MD, PhD
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