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Stem Cell Res. 2013 Jul;11(1):574-86. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Apr 2.

Inhibition of DNA methyltransferases and histone deacetylases induces astrocytic differentiation of neural progenitors.

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Regenerative Bioscience Center, University of Georgia, 425 River Rd, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Understanding how to specify rapid differentiation of human neural progenitor towards enriched non-transformed human astrocyte progenitors will provide a critical cell source to further our understanding of how astrocytes play a pivotal role in neural function and development. Human neural progenitors derived from pluripotent embryonic stem cells and propagated in adherent serum-free cultures provide a fate restricted renewable source for quick production of neural cells; however, such cells are highly refractive to astrocytogenesis and show a strong neurogenic bias, similar to neural progenitors from the early embryonic central nervous system (CNS). We found that several astrocytic genes are hypermethylated in such progenitors potentially preventing generation of astrocytes and leading to the proneuronal fate of these progenitors. However, epigenetic modification by Azacytidine (Aza-C) and Trichostatin A (TSA), with concomitant signaling from BMP2 and LIF in neural progenitor cultures shifts this bias, leading to expression of astrocytic markers as early as 5days of differentiation, with near complete suppression of neuronal differentiation. The resultant cells express major astrocytic markers, are amenable to co-culture with neurons, can be propagated as astrocyte progenitors and are cryopreservable. Although previous reports have generated astrocytes from pluripotent cells, the differentiation required extensive culture or selection based on cell surface antigens. The development of a label free and rapid differentiation process will expedite future derivation of astrocytes from various sources pluripotent cells including, but not limited to, human astrocytes associated with various neurological diseases.

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