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Robert C. Krencik, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Institute for Academic Medicine
Assistant Member, Research Institute
Houston Methodist
Weill Cornell Medical College

Astrocellular Therapeutics Lab


The Krencik lab is specifically focused on understanding the functional relationship of human neurons and astrocytes in normal and injured states. We employ novel three-dimensional human pluripotent stem cell-based culture techniques, optogenetic methods, electrophysiology, transplantations and molecular/biochemical approaches to answer vital questions and accelerate progress in neuroregeneration including cellular engraftment therapy and drug discovery. In addition, we work with the Neurosurgery Department and other institutions at the Texas Medical Center with the goal of translating innovative neuroscience research discoveries into clinical therapies for restoration of the nervous system after injury and disease.

Description of Research

Dr. Krencik received his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the supervision of Dr. Su-Chun Zhang. During this time, he devised the first cellular system for the efficient generation of human glial progenitors and astrocyte subtypes from pluripotent stem cells and characterized their functionality. This system has been experimentally utilized for cellular replacement therapy to promote learning and memory and to improve the maturity of neuronal subtypes. Furthermore, this powerful approach has become the high standard in research laboratories throughout the world to study various aspects of human disease. To understand how human astrocytes respond and signal to neurons in the context of neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Krencik conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-San Francisco under the mentorship of Dr. Erik Ullian and co-mentorship of Dr. David Rowitch. These studies led to several novel and important discoveries including the identification of a possible mechanism for astrocytes in controlling the timing of synaptic plasticity. More recently, he has been optimizing three dimensional in vitro cocultures of the human nervous system as an improved disease model and platform for neuroregeneration. His research goals and schemes have been summarized in numerous review articles and he enjoys interacting with the scientific community at conferences and through collaborative research projects. 

Areas Of Expertise

Neuroregeneration Neuroscience Spinal cord Spinal cord Injury Stem cells Neural stem cells Astrocytes Neuron-Glia interactions Physiology Disease modeling Translational medicine

Human stem cell-derived astrocytes replicate human prions in a PRNP genotype-dependent manner
Krejciova, Z, Alibhai, J, Zhao, C, Krencik, R, Rzechorzek, NM, Ullian, EM, Manson, J, Ironside, JW, Head, MW & Chandran, S 2017, The Journal of experimental medicine, vol 214, no. 12, pp. 3481-3495. DOI: 10.1084/jem.20161547

Systematic Three-Dimensional Coculture Rapidly Recapitulates Interactions between Human Neurons and Astrocytes
Krencik, R, Seo, K, van Asperen, JV, Basu, N, Cvetkovic, C, Barlas, S, Chen, R, Ludwig, C, Wang, C, Ward, ME, Gan, L, Horner, PJ, Rowitch, DH & Ullian, EM 2017, Stem Cell Reports, vol 9, no. 6, pp. 1745-1753. DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.10.026

Patient-derived iPSCs show premature neural differentiation and neuron type-specific phenotypes relevant to neurodevelopment
Yeh, E, Dao, DQ, Wu, ZY, Kandalam, SM, Camacho, FM, Tom, C, Zhang, W, Krencik, R, Rauen, KA, Ullian, EM & Weiss, LA 2017, Molecular Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2017.238

Zika virus cell tropism in the developing human brain and inhibition by azithromycin
Retallack, H, Di Lullo, E, Arias, C, Knopp, KA, Laurie, MT, Sandoval-Espinosa, C, Mancia Leon, WR, Krencik, R, Ullian, EM, Spatazza, J, Pollen, AA, Mandel-Brehm, C, Nowakowski, TJ, Kriegstein, AR & DeRisi, JL 2016, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol 113, no. 50, pp. 14408-14413. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1618029113

Human astrocytes are distinct contributors to the complexity of synaptic function
Krencik, R, van Asperen, JV & Ullian, EM 2016, Brain Research Bulletin. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2016.08.012

Directed differentiation of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons from human pluripotent stem cells
Hu, Y, Qu, Z-Y, Cao, S-Y, Li, Q, Ma, L, Krencik, R, Xu, M & Liu, Y 2016, Journal of Neuroscience Methods, vol 266, pp. 42-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2016.03.017

Targeting brain’s star-shaped cells may yield autism drugs
Krencik, R, , 2016, Web publication/site.

Efficient generation of region-specific forebrain neurons from human pluripotent stem cells under highly defined condition
Yuan, F, Fang, K-H, Cao, S-Y, Qu, Z-Y, Li, Q, Krencik, R, Xu, M, Bhattacharyya, A, Su, Y-W, Zhu, D-Y & Liu, Y 2015, Scientific Reports, vol 5, pp. 18550. DOI: 10.1038/srep18550

Dysregulation of astrocyte extracellular signaling in Costello syndrome
Krencik, R, Hokanson, KC, Narayan, AR, Dvornik, J, Rooney, GE, Rauen, KA, Weiss, LA, Rowitch, DH & Ullian, EM 2015, Science Translational Medicine, vol 7, no. 286, pp. 286ra66. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa5645

Medial ganglionic eminence-like cells derived from human embryonic stem cells correct learning and memory deficits
Liu, Y, Weick, JP, Liu, H, Krencik, R, Zhang, X, Ma, L, Zhou, G, Ayala, M & Zhang, S-C 2013, Nature Biotechnology, vol 31, no. 5, pp. 440-7. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2565

A cellular star atlas: using astrocytes from human pluripotent stem cells for disease studies
Krencik, R & Ullian, EM 2013, Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, vol 7, pp. 25. DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2013.00025

Astrocytes and disease: a neurodevelopmental perspectiv
Molofsky, AV, Krencik, R, Ullian, EM, Ullian, E, Tsai, H, Deneen, B, Richardson, WD, Barres, BA & Rowitch, DH 2012, Genes & development, vol 26, no. 9, pp. 891-907. DOI: 10.1101/gad.188326.112

Directed differentiation of functional astroglial subtypes from human pluripotent stem cells
Krencik, R & Zhang, S-C 2011, Nature Protocols, vol 6, no. 11, pp. 1710-7. DOI: 10.1038/nprot.2011.405

Specification of transplantable astroglial subtypes from human pluripotent stem cells
Krencik, R, Weick, JP, Liu, Y, Zhang, Z-J & Zhang, S-C 2011, Nature Biotechnology, vol 29, no. 6, pp. 528-34. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1877

The COOH-terminal domain of the JIL-1 histone H3S10 kinase interacts with histone H3 and is required for correct targeting to chromatin
Bao, X, Cai, W, Deng, H, Zhang, W, Krencik, R, Girton, J, Johansen, J & Johansen, KM 2008, The Journal of biological chemistry, vol 283, no. 47, pp. 32741-50. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M806227200

Stem cell neural differentiation: A model for chemical biology
Krencik, R & Zhang, S-C 2006, Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, vol 10, no. 6, pp. 592-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2006.10.002

The JIL-1 kinase interacts with lamin Dm0 and regulates nuclear lamina morphology of Drosophila nurse cells
Bao, X, Zhang, W, Krencik, R, Deng, H, Wang, Y, Girton, J, Johansen, J & Johansen, KM 2005, Journal of Cell Science, vol 118, no. Pt 21, pp. 5079-87. DOI: 10.1242/jcs.02611

Distinct mechanisms of neurodegeneration induced by chronic complex I inhibition in dopaminergic and non-dopaminergic cells
Kweon, G-R, Marks, JD, Krencik, R, Leung, EH, Schumacker, PT, Hyland, K & Kang, UJ 2004, The Journal of biological chemistry, vol 279, no. 50, pp. 51783-92. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M407336200