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J Vis Exp. 2017 Jun 9;(124). doi: 10.3791/55702.

Protocol for the Differentiation of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells into Mixed Cultures of Neurons and Glia for Neurotoxicity Testing.

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Directorate F - Health, Consumers and Reference Materials, Joint Research Centre.
Directorate F - Health, Consumers and Reference Materials, Joint Research Centre;


Human pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into various cell types that can be applied to human-based in vitro toxicity assays. One major advantage is that the reprogramming of somatic cells to produce human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) avoids the ethical and legislative issues related to the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). HiPSCs can be expanded and efficiently differentiated into different types of neuronal and glial cells, serving as test systems for toxicity testing and, in particular, for the assessment of different pathways involved in neurotoxicity. This work describes a protocol for the differentiation of hiPSCs into mixed cultures of neuronal and glial cells. The signaling pathways that are regulated and/or activated by neuronal differentiation are defined. This information is critical to the application of the cell model to the new toxicity testing paradigm, in which chemicals are assessed based on their ability to perturb biological pathways. As a proof of concept, rotenone, an inhibitor of mitochondrial respiratory complex I, was used to assess the activation of the Nrf2 signaling pathway, a key regulator of the antioxidant-response-element-(ARE)-driven cellular defense mechanism against oxidative stress.

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