Harley Kornblum, MD, PhD

Biospecimen Core Co-Director
Harley I. Kornblum, MD, PhD

Harley Kornblum, M.D., Ph.D., is a pediatric neurologist who studies how the brain develops and how this process can go awry in neurodevelopmental disorders and brain cancers. His lab takes an interdisciplinary approach to this research, collaborating with experts in genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics to better understand the genetic and cellular mechanisms that underlie healthy and abnormal brain development. Kornblum hopes this research will lead to the new treatments for brain cancers, spinal cord injuries and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy.

The Kornblum lab studies how stem cells within the brain and spinal cord proliferate, or self-renew, and differentiate to produce brain cells, including the neurons that process and transmit information and the glia that support and protect them. He and his collaborators have discovered numerous genes that regulate this process. They are now further investigating these genes to better understand how autism develops, which could inform new treatment strategies. The lab is also studying how the production of new neurons declines with age in order to develop drugs that promote the growth of new neurons. His group is pursuing novel methods to produce motor neurons – the nerve cells of the spinal cord that control muscle movement – from human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. These methods could one day be used to treat spinal cord injuries.

The Kornblum lab was among the first to identify cells within human brain tumors that have properties similar to neural stem cells. These cells, commonly known as brain tumor stem cells, are believed to be the root cause of brain cancer and a key mechanism of its resistance to therapy and recurrence. Kornblum studies how these cells grow and resist treatments in order to develop methods to prevent their growth and the formation of tumors. Kornblum and his collaborators are now studying how the cells surrounding brain tumor cells influence their growth in order to develop treatments that disrupt this process.

Dr. Kornblum grew up in the LA area and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his MD and PhD degrees from UC Irvine as part of their Medical Scientist Training Program. He completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Hawaii and UC Irvine, followed by a residency, internship and clinical fellowship in pediatric neurology at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine where he has been since.