3D stem cell cultures show promise for improving the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases

Written by Alice Bough, Future Science Group

Credit: Tufts University

Researchers from Tufts University (MA, USA) and the Jackson Laboratory (CT, USA) have collaborated to develop 3D in vitro human tissue culture models for the CNS.  The tissue culture models were created using cell lines from healthy individuals and from people with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
The paper, which has been published in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, may help researchers better understand the progression of neurodevelopmental diseases and allow for the exploration of new treatment options.

The study expands upon previous work in which similar 3D models were grown utilizing stem cells from rodents. Human induced pluripotent stem cells were cultured to differentiate into a range of different cell types.

“We found the right conditions to get the induced pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into a number of different neural subtypes, as well as astrocytes that support the growing neural networks,” commented David Kaplan (Tufts University).

You might also like:

A 3D matrix of collagen and silk proteins were utilized as a scaffold for the CNS tissue model. According to the paper, the 3D models exhibited appropriate morphology and expression of neurotransmitters and receptors.

“The silk–collagen scaffolds provide the right environment to produce cells with the genetic signatures and electrical signaling found in native neuronal tissues,” explained Kaplan.

Tissue models were tested with both healthy stem cells and stem cells in diseased states. “The growth of neural networks is sustained and very consistent in the 3D tissue models, whether we use cells from healthy individuals or cells from patients with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” stated William Cantley (Tufts University).

According to the paper, further development of these 3D tissue culture models may allow researchers to identify early-stage biomarkers for disease states, enabling earlier diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases. Disease progression can also be studied as the cultures can be maintained for at least 9 months.

“That gives us a reliable platform to study different disease conditions and the ability to observe what happens to the cells over the long term,” concluded Cantley.

The models could also be utilized to investigate novel treatment methods for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Sources: Cantley W, Du C, Lomoio S et al. Functional and sustainable 3D human neural network models from pluripotent stem cells. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.8b00622 (2018) (Epub ahead of print); EurekAlert. Scientists grow functioning human neural networks in 3D from stem cells. Press release: www.eurekalert.org