Geneticist Steven McCarroll is conducting groundbreaking research on the causes of mental illness. McCarroll and the scientists in his lab use human genetics, molecular biology, and engineering to create new ways of studying the human brain, reveal the ways in which genomes vary from person to person, and discover the molecular and cellular processes that underlie brain illness. Steven and his team at Harvard have linked schizophrenia to specific gene variations that recruit immune molecules into “pruning” synapses in the brain, a discovery that is leading toward new ways of thinking about the biological basis of schizophrenia and new approaches for discovering medicines. Prior to leading his lab, Steve earned his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also currently serving as Director of Genetics for the Broad Institute’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research.Find out more
The brain is built and composed of billions of cells that are all doing highly specialized jobs. However, compared to other systems in the body, we don’t know much about this complex organ and everything that goes on within it. As a result, there hasn’t been the same kind of profound medical progress for the treatment of brain illnesses as we’ve seen for treating other systems within the body.
Geneticist Steven McCarroll views this problem from a unique angle—he sees the brain and all its complexities as a big data opportunity. So, at his Harvard Medical School lab, Steven and his team set out to develop technologies that use computers in powerful new ways to make sense of the brain, uncovering which cells and molecules matter in different brain illnesses. Watch Steven’s 2017 TEDMED Talk to learn how his research is driving data-driven scientific approaches and opening new opportunities in the treatment of mental illnesses.