Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms that Differentiate Human and Non-Human Neural Development
Understanding the evolutionary mechanisms underlying expansion and reorganization of the human brain is essential to comprehend the emergence of the cognitive abilities typical of our species. Comparative analyses of neuronal phenotypes in closely related species (Homo sapiens; human, Pan troglodytes; chimpanzees and Pan paniscus; bonobos) can shed light onto neuronal changes occurring during evolution, the timing of their appearance and the role of evolutionary mechanisms favoring a particular type of cortical organization in humans. The availability of post-mortem brains of endangered primates is limited and often does not represent important species-specific developmental hallmarks. We used induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to model neural progenitor cell and neurons both functionally and genomically. This presentation provides a cellular and molecular analysis of comparative neural development in closely related hominids. The strategy proposed here lays the groundwork for further comparative analysis between human and non-human primates and opens new avenues for understanding the differences in the neural underpinnings of cognition and neurological disease susceptibility between species.