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Concept: Pluripotency


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.

Concepts: Medicine, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency, Psychiatry


The generation of functional skeletal muscle tissues from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has not been reported. Here, we derive induced myogenic progenitor cells (iMPCs) via transient overexpression of Pax7 in paraxial mesoderm cells differentiated from hPSCs. In 2D culture, iMPCs readily differentiate into spontaneously contracting multinucleated myotubes and a pool of satellite-like cells endogenously expressing Pax7. Under optimized 3D culture conditions, iMPCs derived from multiple hPSC lines reproducibly form functional skeletal muscle tissues (iSKM bundles) containing aligned multi-nucleated myotubes that exhibit positive force-frequency relationship and robust calcium transients in response to electrical or acetylcholine stimulation. During 1-month culture, the iSKM bundles undergo increased structural and molecular maturation, hypertrophy, and force generation. When implanted into dorsal window chamber or hindlimb muscle in immunocompromised mice, the iSKM bundles survive, progressively vascularize, and maintain functionality. iSKM bundles hold promise as a microphysiological platform for human muscle disease modeling and drug development.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Muscle, Progenitor cell, Cellular differentiation, Muscular system, Pluripotency


We recently discovered an unexpected phenomenon of somatic cell reprogramming into pluripotent cells by exposure to sublethal stimuli, which we call stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP). This reprogramming does not require nuclear transfer or genetic manipulation. Here we report that reprogrammed STAP cells, unlike embryonic stem (ES) cells, can contribute to both embryonic and placental tissues, as seen in a blastocyst injection assay. Mouse STAP cells lose the ability to contribute to the placenta as well as trophoblast marker expression on converting into ES-like stem cells by treatment with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF). In contrast, when cultured with Fgf4, STAP cells give rise to proliferative stem cells with enhanced trophoblastic characteristics. Notably, unlike conventional trophoblast stem cells, the Fgf4-induced stem cells from STAP cells contribute to both embryonic and placental tissues in vivo and transform into ES-like cells when cultured with LIF-containing medium. Taken together, the developmental potential of STAP cells, shown by chimaera formation and in vitro cell conversion, indicates that they represent a unique state of pluripotency.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Placenta, Trophoblast, Pluripotency


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.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Tissue, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency, Musical form


Early endoderm progenitors naturally possess robust propagating potential to develop a majority of meter-long gastrointestinal tracts and are therefore considered as a promising source for therapy. Here, we demonstrated the reproducible generation of human CDX2+ posterior gut endoderm cells (PGECs) from five induced pluripotent stem cell clones by manipulating FGF, TGF, and WNT signaling. Transcriptome analysis suggested that putative PGECs harbored an intermediate signature profile between definitive endoderm and organ-specific endoderm. We found that combinatorial EGF, VEGF, FGF2, Chir99021, and A83-01 treatments selectively amplify storable PGECs up to 1021 cell scale without any gene transduction or feeder use. PGECs, compared with induced pluripotent stem cells, showed stable differentiation propensity into multiple endodermal lineages without teratoma formation. Furthermore, transplantation of PGEC-derived liver bud organoids showed therapeutic potential against fulminant liver failure. Together, the robustly amplified PGECs may be a promising cellular source for endoderm-derived organoids in studying human development, modeling disease, and, ultimately, therapy.

Concepts: Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Multipotency, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Cartilage lesions can progress into secondary osteoarthritis and cause severe clinical problems in numerous patients. As a prospective treatment of such lesions, human-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were shown to be 3D bioprinted into cartilage mimics using a nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) composite bioink when co-printed with irradiated human chondrocytes. Two bioinks were investigated: NFC with alginate (NFC/A) or hyaluronic acid (NFC/HA). Low proliferation and phenotypic changes away from pluripotency were seen in the case of NFC/HA. However, in the case of the 3D-bioprinted NFC/A (60/40, dry weight % ratio) constructs, pluripotency was initially maintained, and after five weeks, hyaline-like cartilaginous tissue with collagen type II expression and lacking tumorigenic Oct4 expression was observed in 3D -bioprinted NFC/A (60/40, dry weight % relation) constructs. Moreover, a marked increase in cell number within the cartilaginous tissue was detected by 2-photon fluorescence microscopy, indicating the importance of high cell densities in the pursuit of achieving good survival after printing. We conclude that NFC/A bioink is suitable for bioprinting iPSCs to support cartilage production in co-cultures with irradiated chondrocytes.

Concepts: Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cartilage, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Islet transplantation is an established therapy for diabetes. We have previously shown that rat pancreata can be created from rat pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) in mice through interspecies blastocyst complementation. Although they were functional and composed of rat-derived cells, the resulting pancreata were of mouse size, rendering them insufficient for isolating the numbers of islets required to treat diabetes in a rat model. Here, by performing the reverse experiment, injecting mouse PSCs into Pdx-1-deficient rat blastocysts, we generated rat-sized pancreata composed of mouse-PSC-derived cells. Islets subsequently prepared from these mouse-rat chimaeric pancreata were transplanted into mice with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. The transplanted islets successfully normalized and maintained host blood glucose levels for over 370 days in the absence of immunosuppression (excluding the first 5 days after transplant). These data provide proof-of-principle evidence for the therapeutic potential of PSC-derived islets generated by blastocyst complementation in a xenogeneic host.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cell biology, Blood sugar, Rat, Pluripotency, Mouse, Embryogenesis


Recent breakthroughs in 3-dimensional (3D) organoid cultures for many organ systems have led to new physiologically complex in vitro models to study human development and disease. Here, we report the step-wise differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) (embryonic and induced) into lung organoids. By manipulating developmental signaling pathways hPSCs generate ventral-anterior foregut spheroids, which are then expanded into human lung organoids (HLOs). HLOs consist of epithelial and mesenchymal compartments of the lung, organized with structural features similar to the native lung. HLOs possess upper airway-like epithelium with basal cells and immature ciliated cells surrounded by smooth muscle and myofibroblasts as well as an alveolar-like domain with appropriate cell types. Using RNA-sequencing, we show that HLOs are remarkably similar to human fetal lung based on global transcriptional profiles, suggesting that HLOs are an excellent model to study human lung development, maturation and disease.

Concepts: Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Multipotency, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


The female germ line undergoes a unique sequence of differentiation processes that confers totipotency to the egg. The reconstitution of these events in vitro using pluripotent stem cells is a key achievement in reproductive biology and regenerative medicine. Here we report successful reconstitution in vitro of the entire process of oogenesis from mouse pluripotent stem cells. Fully potent mature oocytes were generated in culture from embryonic stem cells and from induced pluripotent stem cells derived from both embryonic fibroblasts and adult tail tip fibroblasts. Moreover, pluripotent stem cell lines were re-derived from the eggs that were generated in vitro, thereby reconstituting the full female germline cycle in a dish. This culture system will provide a platform for elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying totipotency and the production of oocytes of other mammalian species in culture.

Concepts: Gene, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Embryonic stem cell, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Pluripotency


Planarians are members of the Platyhelminthes (flatworms). These animals have evolved a remarkable stem cell system. A single pluripotent adult stem cell type (“neoblast”) gives rise to the entire range of cell types and organs in the planarian body plan, including a brain, digestive-, excretory-, sensory- and reproductive systems. Neoblasts are abundantly present throughout the mesenchyme and divide continuously. The resulting stream of progenitors and turnover of differentiated cells drive the rapid self-renewal of the entire animal within a matter of weeks. Planarians grow and literally de-grow (“shrink”) by the food supply-dependent adjustment of organismal turnover rates, scaling body plan proportions over as much as a 50-fold size range. Their dynamic body architecture further allows astonishing regenerative abilities, including the regeneration of complete and perfectly proportioned animals even from tiny tissue remnants. Planarians as an experimental system, therefore, provide unique opportunities for addressing a spectrum of current problems in stem cell research, including the evolutionary conservation of pluripotency, the dynamic organization of differentiation lineages and the mechanisms underlying organismal stem cell homeostasis. The first part of this review focuses on the molecular biology of neoblasts as pluripotent stem cells. The second part examines the fascinating mechanistic and conceptual challenges posed by a stem cell system that epitomizes a universal design principle of biological systems: the dynamic steady state.

Concepts: DNA, Cell, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Stem cells, Cell biology, Cellular differentiation, Pluripotency