Publication Details

Maucksch, C., Firmin, E., Butler-Munro, C., Montgomery, J. M., Dottori, M. & Connor, B. (2012). Non-viral generation of neural precursor-like cells from adult human fibroblasts. Journal of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, 8 (3), 162-170.

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German Stem Cell Society


Recent studies have reported direct reprogramming of human fibroblasts to mature neurons by the introduction of defined neural genes. This technology has potential use in the areas of neurological disease modeling and drug development. However, use of induced neurons for large-scale drug screening and cell-based replacement strategies is limited due to their inability to expand once reprogrammed. We propose it would be more desirable to induce expandable neural precursor cells directly from human fibroblasts. To date several pluripotent and neural transcription factors have been shown to be capable of converting mouse fibroblasts to neural stem/precursor-like cells when delivered by viral vectors. Here we extend these findings and demonstrate that transient ectopic insertion of the transcription factors SOX2 and PAX6 to adult human fibroblasts through use of non-viral plasmid transfection or protein transduction allows the generation of induced neural precursor (iNP) colonies expressing a range of neural stem and pro-neural genes. Upon differentiation, iNP cells give rise to neurons exhibiting typical neuronal morphologies and expressing multiple neuronal markers including tyrosine hydroxylase and GAD65/67. Importantly, iNP-derived neurons demonstrate electrophysiological properties of functionally mature neurons with the capacity to generate action potentials. In addition, iNP cells are capable of differentiating into glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-expressing astrocytes. This study represents a novel virus-free approach for direct reprogramming of human fibroblasts to a neural precursor fate.