Brain cell types routinely grown in the Hugh Green Biobank


Human neurons – one of the most difficult cell types to grow from the adult human brain. We have now developed standardised methods that generate functional (electrically active) human neurons that form synaptic contacts. We are initiating studies to use these human neuron cultures to test and develop treatments for brain disorders such as epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

Human astrocytes – these cells support neurons and are involved in cognitive brain functions. Enhancing the functioning of these cells would promote neuron and brain health. Astrocytes also contribute to brain scar formation. 

Human microglia – are the brain’s “first-responders” analogous to fire crews/ambulance crews and the police in our cities. Their job is to sense how the brain is functioning and if they detect anomalies they respond to try to maintain brain homeostasis. They are also expert phagocytes (rubbish collectors) cleaning up debris and removing bacteria from the brain. Understanding how human microglia work is fundamental to developing treatments to many brain disorders, as these cell also mediate “inflammation” in the brain and may even under some pathological conditions destroy healthy neurons and synapses. 

Human endothelial cells – make up all blood vessels in the brain and body and form the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Human pericytes – these cells line all of the blood vessels in the brain sitting on top of endothelial cells that make up the blood vessel walls. They are therefore critical for normal blood flow to the brain as well as instrumental in maintaining the BBB. These barriers protect the brain from potentially toxic chemicals and cells in the blood. This barrier fails in many brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Motor Neuron Disease, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, stroke and after head injuries. Promoting pericyte health may protect the barrier from damage and promote brain health by improving its blood flow.

Human brain stem cells – which can be grown from the adult human brain and can be studied for their potential in brain repair and regeneration.

Human glioma cells – are cells derived from the most severe and devastating brain tumours called Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). These cells are thought to be primarily responsible for the spread of brain tumours. We are studying their basic chemical make-up and also testing drugs on these cells to identify compounds that might destroy these cells and/or stop their spread in the brain (see drug discovery and testing using human brain cells).