Researchers at Tufts University have developed a new technique for generating human neural stem cells for tissue engineering. The technique generates rapidly-differentiating neural stem cells which the researchers say could be used for applications such as creating 3D models of the human brain, as well as for engineering other innervated tissues such as corneas and skin.
According to the paper, human fibroblasts and stem cells derived from adipose tissue were converted into induced neural stem cells (hiNSC) lines. In as little as four days the cells acquired the features of active neurons. The team is not the first to have generated hardy hiNSCs, but the process is simpler and hiNSCs can be generated far faster than other techniques. Current procedures can take up to a month to reach the same stage.
The team says their neural stem cells have a number of unique attributes which help them to grow well with other types of cells including skeletal tissue. The team has shown that injecting the cells into an early chicken embryo saw the cells incorporate into the brain and peripheral nervous system.
David L. Kaplan, PhD., Stern Family Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts School of Engineering believes the new process could be used to forward in vitro research on the human nervous system, as well as providing neural stem cells for a wide range of biomedical applications such as three dimensional modeling using normal and diseased cells, complex innervated co-cultures, and high through-put drug assays.
Kaplan’s research team has previously engineered a complex 3D model of brain-like cortical tissue grown on a porous matrix of cast silk protein. The new technique for generating human neural stem cells for tissue engineering allowed the researchers to construct a working 3D model of the human brain on the same matrix. The team used computer imaging of the networks to demonstrate functionality and showed neurons firing signals. The team believes the new technique could be used to create larger, more complex 3D models.
Dana M. Cairns, the first author on the paper says, “Other emerging brain models often require months of growth before the model gets to a stage where you can consider it brain-like tissue. By contrast, after a few weeks in these scaffolds, they’ve already developed neural networks.”
The paper – Expandable and Rapidly Differentiating Human Induced Neural Stem Cell Lines for Multiple Tissue Engineering Applications – can be viewed on this link.