Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

Morgan Sturgeon

Mentor: Robert Cornell, Ph.D.
Lab Room: 1-400 BSB
Lab Phone: 319-335-7725

Modeling epilepsy in zebrafish

Over 65 million people suffer from aberrant spontaneous neuronal firing, or epilepsy. Epilepsy is vastly heterogenic, and most genetic mutations underlying the disease remain undiscovered. One-third of epileptic patients do not respond to any current treatments, due to either misdiagnosis or general pharmaceutical resistance. Therefore, identifying the genes that underlie epilepsy may provide information that can lead to a better selection of – or even new – therapeutic treatments. Whole-exome sequencing and analysis of patients versus controls has provided a tool to find putative rare disease-causing mutations in epilepsy. Validity of these variants can be determined by mutating the gene in an animal model and observing if this mutant recapitulates an epilepsy phenotype. Zebrafish are emerging as an epileptic model system due to their genetic tractability, large clutch size, and display of epileptic phenotypes comparable to rodent models. Therefore, we combine patient genomic data and the CRISPR/Cas9 method of inducing targeted genetic mutations in zebrafish to elucidate the genetic causes of epilepsy.

Brueggeman, L.*, Sturgeon, M. L.*, Martin, R. M., Grossbach, A. J., Nagahama, Y. , Zhang, A. , Howard, M. A., Kawasaki, H. , Wu, S. , Cornell, R. A., Michaelson, J. J. and Bassuk, A. G. (2018). Drug repositioning in epilepsy reveals novel antiseizure candidates. Ann Clin Transl Neurol. doi:10.1002/acn3.703

Honors and Awards

  • 2018 International Zebrafish Conference Travel Award
  • The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Trainee Scholar Travel Award, June 2019
  • Ballard Seashore Fellowship - Spring 2020