Hunt Lab

U n i v e r s i t y   o f   C a l i f o r n i a   I r v i n e


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We study molecular and circuit mechanisms of childhood brain disorders

We take a cross-disciplinary approach to study the neural circuit basis of brain development and injury. Our research goals are to discover precisely how the nervous system is changed in neurodevelopmental disorders or by traumatic brain injury and to use this information to develop new therapies. We are part of the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine. The lab also participates actively in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Epilepsy Research CenterCenter for Autism Research and TranslationStem Cell Research Center and the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.


Neural circuit development and function

Understanding the basic biology of the brain - how it develops and how it functions - remains one of the greatest challenges in science. To date, our work has focused largely on a group of nerve cells called inhibitory interneurons, the primary source of inhibition in the brain of most animals. We have discovered some of the ways in which disease-linked genes regulate the development and function of these cells and are beginning to learn how they operate at the circuit and behavioral level as well as in disorders of brain development such as epilepsy, intellectual disability and/or autism. To do this, we analyze mice with mutations in genes linked to epilepsy and, more recently, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from the skin of human patients.

The lab is also designing circuit-based therapies to rewire different brain structures in living animals and reprogram their behavior. Historically, modern medicine has relied on pharmacological approaches to deliver drugs throughout the body. While these chronic drug strategies can work, they are quite crude and often result in unwanted side effects. By focusing on a circuit-level understanding of how the brain generates behavior, we recently discovered a way to stop seizures (and other behavioral problems) in severely epileptic mice. This approach involves grafting new inhibitory neurons into areas of the brain important for seizure generation. Based on this work, we have an increasing interest in the generation of specific, well-defined cell types for use in regenerative medicine and continue to explore new avenues for rewiring the nervous system.


In press

Byung Chan Lim publishes commentary in Epilepsy Currents
Reviews recent work to develop gene therapy approaches for epilepsy

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October 2018

Young Kim publishes paper in Neuron
Describes brain defects resulting from Chd2 haploinsufficiency

Read highlights in Neuron, UCI SOM and Spectrum News

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July 2018

Jan Frankowski and Young Kim publish paper in Neurobiology of Disease
Describes the loss of interneurons following traumatic brain injury



Jun 2019 | Jiana Machhor and Jisu Eom receive 2019 SURP Fellowships
Will perform undergraduate research projects in the lab this summer

Oct 2018 | Jan Frankowski receives NIH F31 NRSA Fellowship
Funded 2018-21 for his thesis work on traumatic brain injury

Sep 2018 | Young Kim receives 2018 AES Young Investigator Award
Will present his work on neurodevelopmental disorders in Dec 2018

Dec 2017 | Saad Abassi joins UCB Pharma as Medical Science Partner
Good luck in the new job!

Basic science research 

Basic science research plays an incredibly important role in each of our lives. It is the foundation for all technology and healthcare. If you would like to learn more about our work, and how we are building a better understanding of human brain disorders such as epilepsy, we would love to share our research with you.  Contact us →