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Methods. 2008 Jun;45(2):142-58. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2008.03.007. Epub 2008 May 29.

Differentiation of neural lineage cells from human pluripotent stem cells.

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  • 1Center for Translational Research, Children's Hospital of Orange County Research Institute, 455 South Main Street, Orange, CA 92868-3874, USA.


Human pluripotent stem cells have the unique properties of being able to proliferate indefinitely in their undifferentiated state and to differentiate into any somatic cell type. These cells are thus posited to be extremely useful for furthering our understanding of both normal and abnormal human development, providing a human cell preparation that can be used to screen for new reagents or therapeutic agents, and generating large numbers of differentiated cells that can be used for transplantation purposes. Critical among the applications for the latter are diseases and injuries of the nervous system, medical approaches to which have been, to date, primarily palliative in nature. Differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into cells of the neural lineage, therefore, has become a central focus of a number of laboratories. This has resulted in the description in the literature of several dozen methods for neural cell differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells. Among these are methods for the generation of such divergent neural cells as dopaminergic neurons, retinal neurons, ventral motoneurons, and oligodendroglial progenitors. In this review, we attempt to fully describe most of these methods, breaking them down into five basic subdivisions: (1) starting material, (2) induction of loss of pluripotency, (3) neural induction, (4) neural maintenance and expansion, and (5) neuronal/glial differentiation. We also show data supporting the concept that undifferentiated human pluripotent stem cells appear to have an innate neural differentiation potential. In addition, we evaluate data comparing and contrasting neural stem cells differentiated from human pluripotent stem cells with those derived directly from the human brain.

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