Monday, 6 May 2013

Researchers generate cortical interneurons from human embryonic stem cells

In a recent study, researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the Sloan-Kettering Institute have presented a new method to derive cortical interneurons from human embruonic stem cells. The study has implications in the treatment of  several neurodevelopmental disorders, like autism.

As mentioned before, the researchers used human embryonic stem cells to generate cortical interneurons in a laboratory model that simulated the microenvironment of the human forebrain, the brain area where interneurons are initially formed. Interneurons are nerves cells found within the central nervous system, with their main role being to form connections between other neural cells.

"Interneurons act like an orchestra conductor, directing other excitatory brain cells to fire in synchrony. However, when interneurons malfunction, the synchrony is disrupted, and seizures or mental disorders can result."said Stewart A. Anderson, one of the study's chief authors.


A colony of embryonic stem cells


Unlike, say, liver diseases, in which doctors can biopsy a part of a patient's liver, neuroscientists can't biopsy the brain tissue of a living patient, said Anderson to highlight the importance of producing a model comprised of human brain cells, for investigating neurological diseases.

The researchers also reported that the lab-grown interneurons connect "in circuits" with other types of brain cells harvested from mice, when co-cultured. These interactions, explained Anderson, gave them  the opportunity to observe the cell-to-cell signalling which occurs during forebrain development.

The scientists now plan to continue their research by selectively manipulating genes in the lab-grown interneurons, in an effort to understand how gene mutations lead to particular diseases. Their ultimate goal is to contribute in the development of new, more effective drugs for several neuropsychiatric diseases including autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia.

In another project, Anderson's and his team are studying the chromosome 22q.11.2 deletion syndrome (DiGeorge syndrome)  using interneurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells made from skin samples of patients with the syndrome.

Reference
Asif M. Maroof, Sotirios Keros, Jennifer A. Tyson, Shui-Wang Ying, Yosif M. Ganat, Florian T. Merkle, Becky Liu, Adam Goulburn, Edouard G. Stanley, Andrew G. Elefanty, Hans Ruedi Widmer, Kevin Eggan, Peter A. Goldstein, Stewart A. Anderson, & Lorenz Studer (2013). Turning Human Stem Cells Into Brain Cells Sheds Light On Neural Development Cell Stem Cell

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