It’s hard for most of us to imagine what life would be like without speaking, walking, breathing, and swallowing, but individuals suffering from motor neuron disease don’t have to imagine this scenario.
Motor neuron diseases, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), strip thousands of people every year of their ability to perform the basic actions we take for granted.
Excited with early progress in induced pluripotency, more researchers have turned to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to create disease models and regenerative therapies, but the efficiency of iPSC differentiation into a particular cell type is often low and there can be genetic and epigenetic alterations within the cells.
To address this, a team of researchers led by Maximilian Naujock, established a protocol to differentiate iPSCs from human cord blood (hCBiPSCs) into neural precursor cells using small molecules. The whole process can be completed in about 18 days.
Here’s what else they noticed:
- The authors were able to passage more than 40 times without losing the differentiation ability of iPS cells derived from human cord blood (hCBiPSC).
- Upon neuronal differentiation by SHH agonist purmoprphamine (PMA) and retinoic acid, the team observed extensive branching and increased interconnectivity of the cells after 7 to 10 days of induction. Another week of culture under this condition resulted in maturation into neuronal cells, where 71% and 55% of the cells were positive for neuronal markers TuJ1 and Map2, respectively.
- When the differentiated cells matured for up to 50 days in culture, hCBiPSC-derived neurons exhibited post-synaptic miniature currents and can be inhibited by acetylcholine receptor antagonists, a typical feature of mature spinal motor neurons.
Find out for yourself how such beneficial neurons can be derived from iPS from human cord blood at Stem Cells and Development, July 2014.