Concept: Induced pluripotent stem cell
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders of aging, characterized by the degeneration of dopamine neurons (DA neurons) in the substantial nigra, leading to the advent of both motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms. Current treatments include electrical stimulation of the affected brain areas and dopamine replacement therapy. Even though both categories are effective in treating PD patients, the disease progression cannot be stopped. The research advance into cell therapies provides exciting potential for the treatment of PD. Current cell sources include neural stem cells (NSCs) from fetal brain tissues, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and directly induced dopamine neurons (iDA neurons). Here, we evaluate the research progress in different cell sources with a focus on using iPSCs as a valuable source and propose key challenges for developing cells suitable for large-scale clinical applications in the treatment of PD.
Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare disease characterized by progressive ossification of soft tissues, for which there is no effective treatment. Mutations in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor activin receptor-like kinase 2 (ACVR1/ALK2) are the main cause of FOP. We generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from FOP patients with the ALK2 R206H mutation. The mutant ALK2 gene changed differentiation efficiencies of hiPSCs into FOP bone-forming progenitors: endothelial cells (ECs) and pericytes. ECs from FOP hiPSCs showed reduced expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and could transform into mesenchymal cells through endothelial-mesenchymal transition. Increased mineralization of pericytes from FOP hiPSCs could be partly inhibited by the ALK2 kinase inhibitor LDN-212854. Thus, differentiated FOP hiPSCs recapitulate some aspects of the disease phenotype in vitro, and they could be instrumental in further elucidating underlying mechanisms of FOP and development of therapeutic drug candidates.
Mutations in the Retinitis Pigmentosa GTPase Regulator (RPGR) cause X-linked RP (XLRP), an untreatable, inherited retinal dystrophy that leads to premature blindness. RPGR localises to the photoreceptor connecting cilium where its function remains unknown. Here we show, using murine and human induced pluripotent stem cell models, that RPGR interacts with and activates the actin-severing protein gelsolin, and that gelsolin regulates actin disassembly in the connecting cilium, thus facilitating rhodopsin transport to photoreceptor outer segments. Disease-causing RPGR mutations perturb this RPGR-gelsolin interaction, compromising gelsolin activation. Both RPGR and Gelsolin knockout mice show abnormalities of actin polymerisation and mislocalisation of rhodopsin in photoreceptors. These findings reveal a clinically-significant role for RPGR in the activation of gelsolin, without which abnormalities in actin polymerisation in the photoreceptor connecting cilia cause rhodopsin mislocalisation and eventual retinal degeneration in XLRP.Mutations in the Retinitis Pigmentosa GTPase Regulator (RPGR) cause retinal dystrophy, but how this arises at a molecular level is unclear. Here, the authors show in induced pluripotent stem cells and mouse knockouts that RPGR mediates actin dynamics in photoreceptors via the actin-severing protein, gelsolin.
Generating human podocytes in vitro could offer a unique opportunity to study human diseases. Here, we describe a simple and efficient protocol for obtaining functional podocytes in vitro from human induced pluripotent stem cells. Cells were exposed to a three-step protocol, which induced their differentiation into intermediate mesoderm, then into nephron progenitors and, finally, into mature podocytes. After differentiation, cells expressed the main podocyte markers, such as synaptopodin, WT1, α-Actinin-4, P-cadherin and nephrin at the protein and mRNA level, and showed the low proliferation rate typical of mature podocytes. Exposure to Angiotensin II significantly decreased the expression of podocyte genes and cells underwent cytoskeleton rearrangement. Cells were able to internalize albumin and self-assembled into chimeric 3D structures in combination with dissociated embryonic mouse kidney cells. Overall, these findings demonstrate the establishment of a robust protocol that, mimicking developmental stages, makes it possible to derive functional podocytes in vitro.
Frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17q21.2 (FTDP-17) is an autosomal-dominant neurodegenerative disorder. Mutations in the gene coding the microtubule-associated protein tau (MAPT) can cause FTDP-17 but the underlying mechanisms of the disease are still unknown. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) hold great promise to model FTDP-17 as such cells can be differentiated in vitro to the required neuronal cell type. Here, we report the generation of iPSCs from a 44-year-old symptomatic woman carrying a S305I mutation in the MAPT-gene.
Human lymphoblast cells from a female and male patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with different genotypes of a functional copy number variation (CNV) in the AD risk gene CR1 were used to generate integration-free induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) employing episomal plasmids expressing OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, LIN28, c-MYC and L-MYC. The iPSCs retained the CR1 CNV, and comparative transcriptome analyses with the human embryonic stem cell line H1 revealed a Pearson correlation of 0.956 for AD1-CR10 and 0.908 for AD1-CR14.
Human lymphoblast cells from a female patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) possessing the missense mutation TREM2 p.R47H were used to generate integration-free induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) employing episomal plasmids expressing OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, LIN28, c-MYC and L-MYC. The iPSCs retained the TREM2 mutation, and were defined as pluripotent based on (i) expression of pluripotent-associated markers, (ii) embryoid body-based differentiation into cell types representative of the three germ layers and (iii) the similarity between the transcriptomes of the iPSC line and the human embryonic stem cell line H1 with a Pearson correlation of 0.961.
Our understanding of the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders remains limited, and biomarker-based clinical management is yet to be developed. Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology has revolutionized our capacity to generate patient-derived neurons to model psychiatric disorders. Here, we highlight advantages and caveats of iPSC disease modeling and outline strategies for addressing current challenges.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is composed of four cell populations, brain endothelial cells (BECs), pericytes, neurons, and astrocytes. Its role is to precisely regulate the microenvironment of the brain through selective substance crossing. Here we generated an in vitro model of the BBB by differentiating human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into all four populations. When the four hiPSC-derived populations were co-cultured, endothelial cells (ECs) were endowed with features consistent with BECs, including a high expression of nutrient transporters (CAT3, MFSD2A) and efflux transporters (ABCA1, BCRP, PGP, MRP5), and strong barrier function based on tight junctions. Neuron-derived Dll1, which activates Notch signaling in ECs, was essential for the BEC specification. We performed in vitro BBB permeability tests and assessed ten clinical drugs by nanoLC-MS/MS, finding a good correlation with the BBB permeability reported in previous cases. This technology should be useful for research on human BBB physiology, pathology, and drug development.
Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived retinal organoids are a platform for investigating retinal development, pathophysiology, and cellular therapies. In contrast to histologic analysis in which multiple specimens fixed at different times are used to reconstruct developmental processes, repeated analysis of the same living organoids provides a more direct means to characterize changes. New live imaging modalities can provide insights into retinal organoid structure and metabolic function during in vitro growth. This study employed live tissue imaging to characterize retinal organoid development, including metabolic changes accompanying photoreceptor differentiation.