Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Researchers announce improved technique for modelling neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's

In a study that just came out, researchers from The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSCF) have described an improved technique for the production of 3D-cultures of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs.). The study's findings will be used by NYSCF scientists to further accelerate their research on Alzheimer's disease

The most useful application of iPSCs probably lies in the creation of "disease in a dish" models using human iPSCs. These models can be used to try out all kind of experimental drugs, without worrying for any adverse effects on real patients. However, the NYSCF researchers say that the traditional techniques fail to form 3D models that mimic certain tissues like the ones found in our brain.

In this study, the researchers, led by Scott Noggle, Charles Evans and Michael W. Nestor, modified traditional 2D cultures methods and developed 3D neuron structures using iPSCs. This was managed by combining the use of cell culture inserts with serum-free embryoid bodies. The structures produced via this method maintained their 3D structure while thinning substantially which in turn allowed calcium-imaging, usedf for measuring the electrical activity of cells like neurons.

"Combining the advantages of iPS cells grown in a 3D environment with those of a 2D system, our technique produces cells that can be used to observe electrical activity of putative networks of biologically active neurons, while simultaneously imaging them," said Nestor.

Comparison between a healthy brain and a brain affected by Alzheimer's
Comparison between a healthy brain (left) and a brain affected by Alzheimer's (right)

According to Nestor, their method is very important in studying and modelling neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimers. Actually, NYSCF now plans to put their findings into use:

"This critical new tool developed by our Alzheimer's team will accelerate Alzheimer's research, enabling more accurate manipulation of cells to find a cure to this disease," said Susan Solomon, CEO of NYSCF.

Video of Susan Solomon talking about stem cells

Related posts
Modeling Alzheimer's using induced pluripotent stem cells: A team of researchers has successfully used iPSCs, derived from Alzheimer's patients, to model the disease.

Nestor MW, Paull D, Jacob S, Sproul AA, Alsaffar A, Campos BA, & Noggle SA (2013). Differentiation of serum-free embryoid bodies from human induced pluripotent stem cells into networks. Stem cell research, 10 (3), 454-463 PMID: 23500645

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